News In Brief

Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn and Stephanie Cook

California regulators ordered rolling blackouts for the second straight day - and the first time in two months. Monday's blackouts struck without warning and left 1.2 million people from San Diego to Sacramento in the dark for up to two hours. Across the state, street intersections were jammed as signal lights went out and businesses put up "closed" signs. Shortages were blamed on high demand, a transformer fire, and a lack of electricity from idled plants and out-of-state suppliers.

The Supreme Court ruled that some convicted killers in South Carolina have the right to tell jurors there is no hope for parole if they're sentenced to life in prison instead of death. The 7-to-2 ruling was a follow-up to the justices' 1994 decision that keeping such information from jurors in some cases violates due-process rights because the latter may not think a life sentence really means a lifetime behind bars without parole.

Closing arguments were to begin in the inquiry of USS Greeneville crew after the Navy submarine rammed a Japanese fishing trawler last month, killing nine. Earlier this week, a sonar analyst aboard the sub testified that he became "lazy" and broke safety rules, depriving the captain of information that could have averted the collision. The Greeneville smashed into the fishing vessel while demonstrating a rapid-surfacing drill for civilian guests.

Five states planned to sue R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., contending it violated a promise to stop marketing to young people. The agreement came in a massive 1998 settlement signed by tobacco companies and states. Officials in Arizona, California, Ohio, New York, and Washington, are asking courts to come up with punishments for a variety of violations. Four states want Reynolds to remove its ads after races on the NASCAR circuit instead of leaving them up the entire season. A California complaint also alleges that tobacco ads in magazines such as Rolling Stone target young people. Reynolds says it advertises only in magazines with 75 percent adult readerships.

President Bush formally withdrew 62 executive and judicial nominations made by ex-President Clinton. Among them: Kathleen McCree-Lewis, who'd have been the first black woman on the 6th Circuit of Appeals in Cincinnati, if confirmed. As Bush looks at filling vacancies with his own choices, the White House reportedly is questioning whether the liberal-leaning American Bar Association should have a "preferential role" in evaluating nominees.

The cause of the Amtrak derailment in Iowa that killed one person and injured 96 others last weekend was likely a track failure and not human error, a National Transportation Safety Board member said. The Washington Post reported that the train derailed where a temporary patch had been put over a rail defect. The train was bound from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif., when it crashed.

Correction: Due to a wire-service error, an item in this space March 16 incorrectly stated the number of consecutive years Doug Swingley won Alaska's Iditarod dogsled race. He won four times, but only three in a row.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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