News In Brief

President Clinton presented former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Clinton praised the only living former Democratic president as a man of peace who has used his retirement from politics to help poor people at home and promote democracy abroad. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor.

Clinton urged the GOP-dominated Senate to clear a backlog of judicial appointments. He made the plea during a speech to the American Bar Association (ABA) annual convention in Atlanta. A total of 65 judgeships, including 21 regarded as "emergencies" due to case backlogs and long vacancies, remain vacant, according to a letter sent Monday to Senate leaders by five former ABA presidents.

Two candidates for governor of California spent $52.5 million last year, shattering the previous mark by more than $20 million. The report from the California secretary of state said current Gov. Gray Davis (D) and his opponent, Dan Lungren (R), spent a combined $52,487,133 during the final six months of 1998. The previous spending record for the state's executive office - set in 1994 - was $31.8 million.

A van loaded with Mexican farm workers and driven by an unlicensed driver slammed into a truck on a remote road near Five Points in central California, killing 13 of 15 people in the van. It also renewed concern for the safety of field laborers, who often cram into vehicles to get to and from work. It's illegal in California to have anyone ride without proper seats and seat belts, but certified farm vehicles are exempt from the law.

Vice President Al Gore called for House passage of a new US hate-crimes law - and took a swipe at Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R), the GOP presidential front-runner. During a speech to the National Urban League in Houston, Gore expressed dismay that a proposal similar to one recently approved by the US Senate had been defeated in the Texas legislature this spring. Proponents of the measure blamed Bush for its failure, saying he did little to help when it came under attack from social conservatives who said gays should not be included in the legislation.

The search for mass graves of victims of a 1921 race riot in Tulsa, Okla., has led to two cemetery locations, a state archaeologist reported. Bob Brooks told the Tulsa Race Riot Commission that only excavation could determine whether either site contains remains of riot victims. The 11-member panel has been trying for two years to determine what happened May 31, 1921, when white mobs torched Tulsa's black business district - and whether reparations should be made. The official death count of about three dozen has long been disputed. Above, commission members Bob Blackburn (l.), John Hope Franklin, and Don Ross (r.) listen to public testimony.

A Florida importer was found guilty of smuggling Philippine corals into the US, in what prosecutors called the first federal conviction for trafficking in internationally protected coral. Petros Levantis faced up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines - and his firm could be fined up to $1.5 million after a jury in Tampa returned the verdict.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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