News In Brief

President Bush is due in London today to kick off a week-long trip through Europe, where he'll meet with a succession of leaders to promote international free trade as a way to boost the economies of developing nations, beginning with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush also has scheduled a meeting with Pope John Paul II and will attend this weekend's summit of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations in Genoa, Italy.

Debate over embryonic stem-cell research heated up as a congressional panel collected testimony from supporters and opponents over whether to allow it to be federally funded. Some scientists think embryonic stem cells could be used to treat diseases. But the research also has stiff opposition because collecting the cells requires the death of human embryos. Bush is expected to issue a decision in the next few weeks over whether to lift a suspension of a plan by the National Institutes of Health to fund research using the cells. (Stories, page 1.)

In the latest embarrassment for the FBI, Justice Department officials reported that 184 laptop computers and 449 firearms are missing from the agency's inventory, many of which could have been stolen. The memory of at least one of the computers is said to contain classified material. The weapons mostly are sidearms, but some submachine guns also are missing. Attorney General John Ashcroft asked FBI officials to conduct a department-wide review of inventory controls.

By a 64-to-44 vote, North Carolina's House of Representatives approved a ban on executing mentally retarded inmates. The state Senate approved the measure earlier. Sixteen states have banned such executions, with Missouri the latest to approve a ban two weeks ago. The North Carolina law would require a defendant to show evidence of mental retardation prior to his or her crime.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that juveniles who commit sex offenses before age 14 can be exempt from "Megan's Law," which requires them to notify communities in which they live of their crimes. The court said juveniles should be given a second chance and shouldn't be labeled as sex offenders if they can prove they had been rehabilitated by age 18.

Katharine Graham, who died Tuesday in Boise, Idaho, near her Sun Valley home, was chairman of The Washington Post for 20 years. Graham took over the newspaper in 1963 on the passing of her husband, Philip, and steered it through the tumult of the Pentagon Papers controversy and the Watergate scandal. She turned the Post over to her son, Donald, in 1991 but remained as chairman of the executive committee until recently. She also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for her autobiography.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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