News In Brief

In a surprise move, the Justice Department was reported to be considering an out-of-court settlement of its own lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Some public health advocates said they were worried that the Bush administration will not seek a strong settlement. For their part, tobacco companies signaled they were hesitant to settle. Two administration sources said there has been concern about the government's case and that the Justice Department would prefer a settlement now rather than risk losing later.

President Bush urged Congress to pass a patients' bill of rights by year's end but said he will fight proposals that open the door to unnecessary lawsuits against HMOs. He praised a bipartisan alternative to a Democratic healthcare proposal that senators are expected to debate later this week. The Democratic plan would rewrite rules that currently protect HMOs and insurers from patient complaints and lawsuits. Republicans contend it would open the gates for numerous lawsuits that would threaten small businesses.

Opponents of bilingual education launched a ballot initiative in Colorado, seeking to end a practice that's already been struck down by voters in California and Arizona. Backers of the initiative, who say Denver's public schools force students into such programs, led a protest at the Capitol (above). The proposal would require that children not fluent in English be placed in a one-year English-immersion program unless their parents specifically request bilingual education. Opponents argue that students would struggle academically without lessons in their native languages.

Republican Randy Forbes was elected to an open House seat in Virginia formerly held by a Democrat. In the special election Tuesday, the former state GOP chairman defeated Democrat Louise Lucas for the seat left vacant by the death of Norman Sisisky (D). Analysts called the outcome a morale boost for Republicans, who recently lost control of the Senate when James Jeffords of Vermont declared himself an independent. Forbes's victory gives Republicans 222 House seats to the Democrats' 210. Independents have two seats; one is vacant.

A key gauge of economic activity rose 0.5 percent in May, a signal the economy is poised to recover, albeit slowly. The New York-based Conference Board said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators edged higher last month to 109.3, after a 0.1 percent rise in April. Analysts were expecting a 0.3 percent increase.

Chicagoans are making an effort to become the nation's greenest city. Within five years, officials said, at least 20 percent of the city's electricity will come from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. The effort is part of a more ambitious plan to become the nation's manufacturing and development center for green technology. Since Mayor Richard Daley (D) took office in 1989, the city has planted thousands of trees, created more than 100 miles of bicycle paths, and installed solar panels on several museums.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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