News In Brief

Public universities and colleges can use money from mandatory undergraduate fees to finance campus groups that engage in political speech some students find objectionable, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously. Overturning lower-court findings, it upheld the University of Wisconsin's fee system, which the justices said does not violate free-speech rights. The justices also unanimously overturned rulings that found Wal-Mart to have improperly copied designs used by a manufacturer of children's clothing. The decision, which reasons that "design ... is not inherently distinctive," makes it harder for companies to have their product designs qualify for trademark-law protection, analysts said.

The Senate unanimously passed legislation to stop taking Social Security benefits away from people who continue to work through their late 60s. The bill will go back to the House, which also passed it overwhelmingly and is expected to again, because the Senate added a measure to assure that 64-year-olds are not penalized. President Clinton has said he will sign the bill.

The Federal Reserve boosted interest rates for the fifth time since last June in an attempt to keep inflation in check and slow a record-breaking economy. The federal-funds rate, the interest that banks charge on overnight loans, was raised a quarter-point to 6 percent. Economists predicted Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan will announce further rate hikes at least twice this year.

Two gunmakers, Glock Inc. and Browning, said they won't sign voluntary agreements similar to the deal on production restrictions reached last week between Smith & Wesson Corp. and the Clinton administration. The deal-breaker for Glock was the creation of an "oversight commission," made up of local, state, and federal officials.

The Justice Department won the biggest hotel-discrimination settlement in US history, securing $8 million in penalties from the St. Louis-based Adam's Mark chain, which allegedly discouraged blacks from staying at its upscale lodging. The chain agreed to pay damages to potentially hundreds of guests who may have been harassed at its Daytona Beach, Fla., hotel during a black college reunion last year. It also pledged $1.5 million to four historically black colleges in Florida and agreed to institute programs to attract minority guests, in exchange for the dismissal of other lawsuits.

In an unusual step, Philadelphia police will let a special women's committee help evaluate sexual-assault complaints to ensure that crime statistics are accurate. The move comes after the department was accused of mislabeling rapes as lesser offenses or shelving cases altogether. The committee will have "the final say" on how complaints are classified, which can determine the urgency of investigations. Opponents questioned whether private groups should be involved, but supporters said it will result in more crimes reported.

A controversial Oregon law allowing adults who were adopted earlier in life access to their birth records was upheld by the state's supreme court. Earlier, the voter-approved measure was OK'd by a lower court. More than 2,000 adoptees have requested birth records from the Oregon Health Division. The law is opposed by anonymous birth mothers, who say it would violate their right to privacy.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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