News In Brief

Although South Carolina lowered the Confederate flag from atop its capitol Saturday, a local NAACP leader said a tourism boycott of the state would continue because the banner was raised elsewhere on State House grounds. Both flag supporters and opponents - who numbered at least 1,500 - gathered for the events, which the Legislature voted in May to carry out. One person was arrested for assault. The flag's new location is by a Confederate soldier's monument in front of the State House.

A survey commissioned by the National Park Service concludes that Washington's monuments are vulnerable to terrorist attack and that the service needs a larger budget to counter the threat, The Washington Post reported. The study recommended a one-time expenditure of $3 million and cited poor communications equipment, lack of manpower, and inadequate safety procedures, the Post said. But Park Police officials were quoted as saying visitors should feel safe going to the National Mall for events like tomorrow's Independence Day celebrations, because virtually every officer on the force will be on duty.

An estimated 20 to 30 same-sex couples were legally joined as spouses in Vermont Saturday, when legislation providing for "civil unions" for homosexuals went into effect. The ceremonies followed a state Supreme Court ruling in December that homosexual couples were entitled to the more than 300 benefits, protections, and responsibilities afforded to regular married couples. About 150 people protested the legalization in a rally, also Saturday, at the state capitol.

The Presbyterian Church's chief policymaking body recommended a ban on religious ceremonies blessing same-sex couples, even if the proceedings stop short of marriage. The denomination's General Assembly, meeting in Long Beach, Calif., OK'd the measure 268 to 251 Friday. It now must be ratified by a majority of 173 regional leaders to become a binding part of the denomination's constitution. In 1995, a similar recommendation by the assembly failed to win ratification.

Air samples haven't indicated there were any radiation releases as a result of the wildfire at the Hanford nuclear reservation, Washington State officials said. But the Environmental Protection Agency was conducting additional tests. The fire, which destroyed 20 homes and threatened the storage sites of lethal wastes, was essentially put out late last week.

The collapse of a concrete terrace on a Lake Erie island killed one person and injured 75 others, 25 of them critically, authorities said. Engineers who inspected the area believe the accident was caused by a structural problem, not overloading, a local authority said. The terrace fell about 16 to 18 feet into a basement, authorities said, at a century-old winery on Middle Bass island in Ohio.

Walter Matthau, who died Saturday in Santa Monica, Calif., was best known for his cranky and unkempt character in "The Odd Couple," opposite Jack Lemmon. In all, Matthau starred in more than 60 movies, early on playing bad guys before making his mark as a comedian. He received an Academy Award in 1966's "The Fortune Cookie" and won a Tony Award for "A Shot in the Dark."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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