News In Brief

Lawyers for George W. Bush and Al Gore argued their cases before the US Supreme Court, pressing rival claims about the suspended manual count of selected presidential ballots cast in Florida. Although other legal and political moves still were going on in the state, both campaigns said the high court's decision probably would decide the election. Among the other moves, Florida's Legislature held hearings as it edges toward naming its own slate of delegates to the Electoral College. (Story, page 1; related opinion, page 9.)

Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford have concluded separately that problems in the tire manufacturing process likely caused tread problems that are blamed for 148 deaths nationwide, USA Today reported. The conclusion apparently would clear workers producing the Firestone tires as well as the Ford Explorer vehicle, in which many of the fatalities occurred. The newspaper said the companies, which were to present findings to the National Highway Traffic Administration, were expected to focus on a layer of rubber between the tires' steel belts and adhesives used during production.

Prisoners executed last year spent 13 months longer on death row than those who died in 1998, a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found. It said the 98 people executed in 1999 - the most since 1951 - were on death row an average of 11 years, 11 months. The longer time span was attributed to two factors: growing public demands for assurances the death-row process is fair and accurate; and, ironically, moves to speed up capital-punishment cases, resulting in the execution of prisoners who have been on death row the longest.

Regulations that could affect Russian caviar and some French perfumes are possible hot topics at this week's UN conference in West Virginia for environmental officials. The delegates represent as many as 152 nations that are parties to a 1975 treaty known as CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which governs commerce in 30,000 endangered animal and plant species. Caviar is likely on the conference agenda because experts have warned that the number of sturgeon - the source of the delicacy - has fallen by between 50 and 70 percent over the past century. Another candidate for discussion is the musk deer, which produces a prized scent and whose numbers also have declined steeply.

No new talks were scheduled between striking newspaper workers and two Seattle dailies after five hours of negotiations with a federal mediator broke off Sunday. The union, which represents about 1,000 employees at The Times and Post-Intelligencer, has been on strike since Nov. 21.

At many seafood dealers around Portland, Maine, the retail price of lobster has fallen to $4 or less per pound - some 20 percent lower than it was in late 1999. Some in the business are blaming the presidential election, which they say has kept consumers cautious and away from lobster splurges for the holidays.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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