News In Brief

The Justice Department is close to asking a federal judge to divide Microsoft Corp. into two or three companies in order to end the software giant's monopoly, the Washington Post reported. Microsoft would be forced to split off its Windows operating system while the rest of the company would be split in two, with one company handling applications software and the other the Internet business. US district Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will hear recommendations this week. Unnerved by the news, stock markets plunged in early trading as the Monitor went to press.

The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Nebraska's ban on so-called partial-birth abortions today in its first major case dealing with abortion-rights in eight years. Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill in 1997 banning the late-term procedure, but pro-choice advocates maintain the ban could be used to outlaw all abortions. Abortion opponents say such procedures come "disturbingly close" to infanticide. Courts have blocked enforcement of similar laws in 30 other states.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court heard arguments over whether letting voters cast their ballots for any candidate, as in California's "blanket primary," violates the rights of political parties. The court's decision, expected by late June, will determine the future of blanket primaries in Louisiana and Washington State as well as California.

The average price of gasoline in the US has dropped nearly 4 cents a gallon in the past two weeks, an industry analyst said. Prices at the pump, including all grades and taxes, averaged $1.53 per gallon, which was down 3.89 cents from the $1.57 average April 7. Lower crude oil prices and increased production were behind the decline, analyst Trilby Lundberg said. Further gas-price cuts are more likely than not, she added.

More than 7.1 million women worked in full-time executive, administrative, or managerial positions as recently as 1998 - a 29 percent jump in five years, according to the latest Census Bureau figures. About 9.4 million men held similar jobs, but that represented only a 19 percent increase. Analysts point to factors such as the growing number of single mothers and two-income households. But while the median income level for men and women in executive positions rose at the same 20 percent clip in 1998, pay for men averaged almost $17,000 more.

A federal jury in Louisiana was to begin deliberating over whether former Gov. Edwin Edwards (D) schemed to profit illegally from riverboat casino licenses. Edwards, his son, Stephen, and state Sen. Greg Tarver are accused of taking part in schemes to manipulate the licensing of such casinos before and after Edwards's fourth term ended in 1996. If convicted, Edwards could be sentenced to more than 300 years in prison.

Researchers have found evidence that men and women navigate using different parts of their brains, The Washington Post reported. It said scientists at the University of Ulm in Germany conducted brain scans on 12 men and 12 women as they tried to escape from a three-dimensional virtual-reality maze. The study found that it took women almost a minute longer. The research also found that women tend to use landmarks to find their way around while men use geometry.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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