News In Brief

Stepping up the Bush administration's role in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, Secretary of State Colin Powell was to present a plan to help end violence between Israelis and Palestinians. His announcement was to follow the release of the Mitchell commission report, which Powell called a potential "launch pad" to end fighting and reopen peace talks. The report proposes a suspension of Israeli construction in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip - an idea rejected by Israel. It also calls on Palestinians to jail terrorists and asks Israel's army to use nonlethal responses to unarmed demonstrators. (Related stories, pages 1, 7; related editorial, page 8.)

The Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that a radio talk-show host cannot be sued for airing an illegally intercepted and recorded telephone conversation made by someone else. The court said that free speech and press protections under the First Amendment trump wiretap laws. The ruling was a setback for the Justice Department, which had defended the law aimed at protecting the privacy of phone conversations. "A stranger's illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern," Justice John Stevens wrote for the majority. (Story, page 1)

The high court also agreed to revisit the free-speech debate over congressional efforts to limit children's access to online pornography. Justices agreed to review lower-court decisions blocking enforcement of a 1998 law making it a crime to knowingly place objectionable material where a child could find it online. The American Civil Liberties Union and free-speech advocates claim the law violates the First Amendment. The Justice Department says the law correctly targets only material inappropriate for children.

Controversial New York-based community activist Al Sharpton said he plans to explore a run for the presidency on the Democratic ticket in 2004. The Rev. Sharpton said his purpose would be to promote issues concerning blacks and "progressives" and that "it would not be just symbolism."

Natural population growth has essentially stopped in industrialized nations and shifted almost entirely to the less-developed countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, according to a report by the Population Reference Bureau. Its study found that of 83 million people added to the world population each year, only 1 million are in industrialized countries. The developing world's population is projected to increase by 2.9 billion by 2050, compared with only 49 million in the more developed countries. It also said women in less developed countries - excluding China, which has a one-child-per-couple policy - average 3.6 children, compared with 1.6 in the more-developed countries.

A court in Corpus Christi, Texas, ordered 21 convicted sex offenders to place signs in their front yards reading "Danger! Registered Sex Offender Lives Here." State District Judge J. Manuel Banales ordered them posted immediately. Defense lawyers sought to block the action as unconstitutional. Texas law requires offenders to register with law-enforcement agencies and have their names and photos posted online.

Ford Motor Co. said it is recalling 50,000 new Explorers because of tires that may accidentally have been cut on a narrow assembly line. Many were built at Ford's plant in Louisville, Ky. The cuts were called "cosmetic" by a company official.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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