News In Brief

Consumer confidence has tumbled in April, following a brief rebound last month, the Conference Board reported. Its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 109.2, down from a revised 116.9 in March. The board cited slowing business and a less-favorable job market as main reasons for the decline.

The captain of the submarine USS Greeneville, which rammed a Japanese fishing boat, killing nine people, was forced to resign. The commander of the Pacific Fleet found Cmdr. Scott Waddle guilty of dereliction of duty and operating the nuclear sub in an unsafe manner when it surfaced under the fishing boat off Hawaii Feb. 9. Waddle received a letter of reprimand and a month's pay was docked, but he was given full pension.

In one of the largest desegregation settlements in history, the state of Mississippi agreed to spend $500 million to improve its three historically black colleges and end claims of discrimination dating back 25 years. A federal class-action suit claimed the black colleges had been neglected in the state's higher-education system, with faculty salaries, facilities, and programs well below standards set at mostly white schools. The deal proposes $246 million over 17 years for academic programs and millions more for upgrades and endowments. It also requires the colleges to reach a 10 percent nonblack enrollment.

President Bush approved the largest package of arms sales to Taiwan in almost a decade, including four Kidd-class destroyers, up to eight diesel-powered submarines, and 12 sub-hunting planes. But Bush decided against the weapons system that communist China had most objected to: destroyers equipped with the sophisticated Aegis radar and battle management system. The $4 billion package would help Taiwan defend itself against possible attack or blockade by rival mainland China. The decision angered the Beijing government, which regards Taiwan as part of China.

In a decision affecting 185 million drivers, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that police officers can make arrests without a warrant for minor traffic violations - such as not wearing a seat belt. The court said the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures, does not limit police discretion to make arrests for routine traffic violations punishable by fines. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor dissented in the case of a Texas driver, who was handcuffed and arrested for not wearing a seat belt as she drove her children home. She said the decision "cloaks the pointless indignity" that the woman was subjected to.

The high court also ruled 5 to 4 that private individuals cannot sue over state rules they consider racially or ethnically discriminatory. The case involved a Mexican national prevented from taking her driver's test in Alabama in Spanish because of the state's "English-only" rule. A provision of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act bars state recipients of federal money from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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