USA

The US Supreme Court struck down a Texas law challenged by two gay men, ruling by a 6-to-3 vote that the state's ban on consensual acts between homosexuals violates constitutional privacy rights. It was one of several big decisions on the last day of the High Court's term. In a blow to state prosecutors seeking to pursue decades-old cases of alleged sexual abuse of children, the justices also overturned a California law that retroactively dropped the statute of limitations for such crimes.

The House and Senate were to vote on competing versions of the biggest Medicare overhaul since the federal healthcare program for the elderly was created in 1965, with passage expected by today. Both versions include prescription-drug benefits for senior citizens, but the House bill would allow private health plans to play a larger role in offering alternative coverage to traditional Medicare, a shift that Republicans maintain will curb spiraling costs.

Federal Reserve policymakers, as expected, cut a key interest rate by a quarter-point Wednesday and indicated a further trim is possible if needed to ward off deflation. The latest cut brought the federal funds rate to just 1 percent - the lowest since 1958. But it disappointed investors hoping for a larger, half-point cut.

In an escalation of the music industry's battle against free Internet downloads, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said Wednesday it plans to file several hundred lawsuits within weeks against individuals who share "substantial" collections of MP3 music files online. "It's stealing. It's both wrong and illegal," said RIAA president Cary Sherman.

Bankrupt Enron Corp. is being sued by the federal government for violating pension laws by allowing employees to invest heavily in the company in retirement accounts, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced. More than 20,700 Enron workers saw their retirement savings wiped out when the energy trader's share price collapsed in an accounting scandal.

Heavy storms and tornadoes again pummeled the upper Midwest. Four people were reported hurt in eastern South Dakota, while in Buffalo Lake, Minn., as many as 15 houses were destroyed and the local Zion Lutheran Church lost its roof.

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