News In Brief

The supreme court turned down former radio reporter Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal of a conviction and death sentence for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia policeman. The court, without comment, turned away arguments that Abu-Jamal was denied a fair trial. His jailhouse writings about the US justice system had attracted worldwide attention, and thousands of supporters had staged demonstrations in Philadelphia to demand a new trial.

In other cases, the high court: - Said Knox County, Tenn., school officials can require drug testing of everyone offered a teaching job. Without comment, the justices turned away a teachers group's argument that such tests are unconstitutional if officials do not suspect a tested individual of using drugs.

- Refused to let Newark, N.J., bar two Muslim policemen from wearing beards. The court rejected the city's appeal and left intact rulings that said such a ban would violate the officers' freedom of religion.

- Asked the Clinton administration to comment on a challenge by Hispanic voters in suburban Houston to their school district's at-large system of electing school-board members.

The number of Americans without health insurance grew by nearly 1 million last year, despite the US economic boom and despite a children's health-insurance program that passed Congress in 1997. The Census Bureau report that 44.3 million people - one in six - still had no health insurance also noted that health-care coverage among children did not change significantly from 1997 to 1998, with 11.1 million, or 15.4 percent, of those under 18 uninsured. The most likely to lack insurance were young adults 18 to 24 years old, the uneducated, Hispanics, part-time workers, and immigrants.

US computer networks are increasingly at risk, and the federal government is not doing enough to counter numerous threats, the nonpartisan General Accounting Office said in a draft report obtained by Reuters. It says lax computer security among both private and public networks is jeopardizing national defense, tax collection, law enforcement, air-traffic control, and a number of other vital activities.

Vice President Al Gore went on the offensive against fellow Democrat Bill Bradley, accusing him of supporting Reagan-era cutbacks in education and health care while serving as a senator from New Jersey. Gore also said he would not fire his campaign chief, Tony Coelho, despite reports Coelho had approved questionable payments to contractors while head of the US pavilion at last year's World Exposition in Portugal.

Retired Pfizer CEO Edmund Pratt is donating $35 million to Duke University's School of Engineering in Durham, N.C., school officials said. The contribution is the largest Duke has received since its original gift of $40 million from cigarette magnate James Duke in 1924.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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