News In Brief

In a major shift in stance, an executive at Philip Morris Cos. said the nation's largest cigarettemaker is willing to discuss some government regulation of the tobacco industry, several newspapers reported. Senior vice president Steven Parrish said the company would consider areas of regulation such as sales to young people, research on safer products, and the disclosure of ingredients. But he also said Philip Morris still opposes efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to classify and regulate tobacco as a drug, an issue at the core of a pending US Supreme Court case.

The Clinton administration, in its effort to crack down on corporate tax shelters, imposed tougher disclosure requirements aimed at making it easier to uncover illegal schemes estimated to cost the Treasury $10 billion annually. The requirements apply to situations in which confidentiality protections are offered to businesses participating in a tax-avoidance scheme, especially those whose promoters charge fees of more than $100,000. The administration also said it would propose legislation this year to stiffen penalties in the tax-shelter area.

In the first trial of its type, a San Francisco man was convicted for running an offshore, online sports-gambling operation. A jury in US District Court in New York concluded that Jay Cohen broke the federal Wire Wager Act, which makes it a crime to use telephone lines in interstate or foreign commerce to place sports bets. Cohen, co-owner of World Sports Exchange based in Antigua, was among 22 defendants charged in March 1998 under the act.

A civil district judge threw out Louisiana laws designed to prevent cities from suing the firearms industry for damages caused by guns. The laws had been passed after New Orleans became the first city to file such a lawsuit in October 1998, claiming gunmakers should be held responsible for products allegedly deficient in safety devices. About 30 other county governments and cities, among them Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago, followed with similar suits that have met with mixed results. The firearms industry is expected to appeal the Louisiana case to the state's Supreme Court.

The Consumer Confidence Index dipped to 141.8 in February from an all-time high of 144.7 the month before, the New York-based Conference Board reported. It was the first decline since last October, possibly indicating that high gas prices and the Federal Reserve's interest-rate increases are beginning to take a toll on the economy.

In what amounts to the largest donation to date bestowed on a university, Patrick McGovern, a publisher of computer magazines and books "for dummies," pledged $350 million to his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. The McGovern Institute for Brain Research will focus on human learning and communication.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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