USA news in brief

Compiled by Monitor staff from wire service reports.

The Supreme Court Monday decided a class-action suit brought by two Arkansas women against Philip Morris USA should not be decided in federal court. Because companies usually fare better in class-action suits in state courts, the ruling was considered a blow to the tobacco giant, which has been accused of unfair marketing of its low-tar cigarettes.

The families of 13 of 32 Virginia Tech students slain by a gunman April 16 demanded representation Monday on a government-chartered panel investigating the killings. They also expressed anger over how the names and images of loved ones had been used by the school to raise money without their consultation.

During the past three weeks, the average price of a gallon of self-serve, regular unleaded gasoline has dropped 7.37 cents to $3.11, according to the Lundberg survey of 7,000 filling stations. Increased foreign shipments were cited as contributing to the decline.

NASA engineers turned to evaluating whether a peeled-back blanket on the Atlantis space shuttle needs fixing after the shuttle docked with international space station Sunday. Repairs could be addressed during one of three scheduled spacewalks, or possibly an extra, unplanned one. Meanwhile, a union representing 570 shuttle program workers agreed to continue contract negotiations rather than strike.

Tom Stoppard's epic trilogy "The Coast of Utopia" won seven awards, including Best Play, at Sunday's Tony Awards in New York, while the rock musical "Spring Awakening" dominated the musical categories. Above, "Coast's" Billy Crudup and Jennifer Ehle, who won Best Actor and Actress in a Play, join Jack O'Brien, the Best Director from the same show.

Returning US soldiers who've seen war duty are challenged in finding the mental health counseling that one-third of them seek in their first year home, according to the Associated Press. It can takes weeks, even months, to see military doctors and private therapists.

Burger King has begun to take on McDonald's in Hawaii by offering a Spam Platter designed to lure the 50th state's many fans of the canned pork-and-ham product, a hit since it was introduced to the islands during World War II. McDonald's has long featured Spam on its Hawaiian menu.

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