Archive for Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Nation Briefs

August 30, 2000


San Francisco

Judge allows class-action case against Microsoft

A judge allowed the first class-action lawsuit to proceed against Microsoft Corp. on allegations that the software giant's monopoly harmed California consumers. Dozens of similar lawsuits linger nationwide.

In a 21-page opinion released Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollak said an untold number of California consumers could be represented in one trial to determine whether they were forced to pay unreasonably high costs for Microsoft products. He said denying the lawsuit "could result in repetitious litigation."

"This case involves a very large number of claimants with relatively small amounts at stake," Pollak said. "Most consumers have little incentive to litigate independently since the costs of litigation undoubtedly would overwhelm their potential recovery."

Microsoft spokesman James Cullinan said the Redmond, Wash., company is reviewing the ruling.

The products at issue are Microsoft's Windows operating system, its MS-DOS operating system, Word programs and Excel software purchased on or after May 18, 1994.

Los Angeles

Rock 'n' roll producer Jack Nitzsche dies

Jack Nitzsche, an Academy Award-winning songwriter, producer and arranger who contributed to some of rock 'n' roll's essential recordings, has died. He was 63.

Nitzsche died Friday after cardiac arrest brought on by a bronchial infection.

He arranged the bulk of Phil Spector's "wall of sound" hits in the '60s, including the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," and he arranged and played keyboard on a series of Rolling Stones records, including "Let's Spend the Night Together." Nitzsche was also instrumental in the early solo career of Neil Young, and later worked with acts as varied as English singer Graham Parker and Los Angeles punk-rock band the Germs.

As a film composer, he scored more than 40 movies. Nitzsche received an Academy Award nomination in 1976 for his score to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." In 1983, he shared the best song Oscar with Buffy Sainte-Marie (his wife at the time) and Will Jennings for "Up Where We Belong," the theme of "An Officer and a Gentleman."

Washington, D.C.

First virus reported for Palm computers

Antivirus experts are warning consumers about the first intentionally destructive program for Palm handheld computers: it appears as an update to a Palm program, but instead deletes all programs on the device.

The author of the program says he didn't mean for it to go public and that he's helping antivirus companies detect it.

The program, a type known as a Trojan horse, has been dubbed "Palm.Liberty.A." Liberty is a popular Palm program, made by Gambit Studios, that lets users download and play games made for the Nintendo GameBoy handheld computer.

Palm.Liberty.A is being distributed under the name "Crack 1.1" through Internet Relay Chat, a network of chatting channels. When run, it deletes all the programs on the user's Palm device, though it leaves the address book data, calendar and other databases intact.

Washington, D.C.

Nixon's daughter denies abuse charge

Patricia Nixon Cox unequivocally denies her late father, President Richard M. Nixon, struck her mother and doubts he took an unprescribed mood-altering drug in the White House.

Nixon's elder daughter, better known by her nickname, Tricia, says those and other allegations in a new biography "describe things that never took place."

"Because I lived at home with them and my sister, I can state unconditionally that at no time during 1962 or ever did my father ever strike my mother or did my mother ever have physical signs or bruises of the type claimed in this book," she said.

"My mother was not a fragile flower. She was very strong. She would have left forever if anything like that had happened," Mrs. Cox said.

Mrs. Cox lives in New York with her husband, Edward Cox, a lawyer, and speaks in public very rarely far less than her younger sister, Julie.

She sought out the interview to rebut allegations in "The Arrogance of Power," a book by BBC journalist Anthony Summers that was published Monday.


Palestinians challenge secret evidence

A Palestinian professor suspected of having terrorist ties invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 99 times Monday at a hearing to free his brother-in-law, who had been held for more than three years on secret evidence.

Sami Al-Arian, who headed a Palestinian think tank at the University of South Florida that investigators think aided the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, would answer only questions no more probing than his address and his relationship to Mazen Al-Najjar, who has been held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service since 1997 on a visa violation.

Al-Arian would not respond to questions posed by government attorneys about his association with suspected terrorists. INS attorney Daniel Vara presented a series of photographs taken at think tank conferences in the early 1990s showing Al-Arian and Al-Najjar seated at a table with suspected terrorists.

New York City

New York Times, AP correct North Pole story

Citing a report in The New York Times, The Associated Press erroneously reported on Aug. 19 that open water had been spotted on the North Pole for the first time in 50 million years, a possible sign of global warming.

In a correction Tuesday, the Times said it had misstated the normal conditions of sea ice at the pole. It said open water probably has occurred there before because the Arctic Ocean is about 10 percent ice-free during a typical summer.

The Times also said the lack of ice at the North Pole is not necessarily a result of global warming.

Washington, D.C.

Flight delays data released

Late arriving data from the Transportation Department confirms what most Americans already knew: June was a miserable month for flight delays.

The department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said air carriers posted a 66.3 percent on-time arrival record in June, down from both the 74.3 percent mark recorded in May and the 70.9 percent recorded in June 1999.

Not surprisingly, United Airlines had June's poorest on-time performance in June. That airline, the nation's largest, had a dispute with pilots, which has since been settled.

New York

Woodstock site to be developed

This is the dawning of the age of construction at the 1969 Woodstock concert site.

Gov. George Pataki and developer Alan Gerry appeared at Max Yasgur's old farm Tuesday to announce plans for a $40 million performing arts and music center at the festival site. The center, to be completed by 2003, will have a mix of covered and lawn seating.

The arts center would be the first permanent structure erected on the hillside 80 miles north of New York City since the famed "three days of peace, love & music" in August 1969. The new center is to hold dance, theater and music performances in a 4,000-seat indoor theater, which could partly open to accommodate another 15,000 spectators on the back lawn.


Tough handgun license bill OK'd

The state Senate approved a proposal for one of the nation's toughest handgun licensing laws, a bill that would require most prospective gun owners to pass a safety course and get a license from a local law enforcement agency.

The legislation, approved Monday by 22-15, faces a likely veto from the governor should it win passage in the Assembly.

The proposal would require every prospective gun owner except current and retired law enforcement officers to pass a written exam and a firing range safety test.

Current law exempts licensed hunters and anyone who served in the military from the written test and has no firing range safety test.


Judge won't order pregnant mom jailed

A judge denied a prosecutor's request Tuesday to lock up a pregnant member of a fundamentalist sect suspected of covering up the death of her last baby. The judge instead ordered a nurse to visit the woman daily in an effort to protect the unborn child.

Judge Kenneth Nasif's decision came despite protests from both Rebecca Corneau, who is 8 1/2 months pregnant, and her husband, who has been in jail for refusing to cooperate in an investigation into the sect.

"In no way at all will I accept any kind of medical assistance. It is against God," Mrs. Corneau told the judge in the closed-door hearing, according to Gerald Fitzgerald, an assistant district attorney.

Bristol County Dist. Atty. Paul Walsh went to Attleboro Juvenile Court to argue for the unusual "pre-emptive care" petition to put Corneau in custody for the remainder of her pregnancy.

Washington, D.C.

Orangutan escapes from National Zoo

A male orangutan named Junior made a brief escape Tuesday morning from the National Zoo's Great Ape House and zoo visitors were warned away from the area until he was recaptured.

The orangutan is about 30 years old and had never before left the Ape House, zoo officials said, even though there are a series of towers orangutans can use to go back and forth between that enclosure and the zoo's animal Think Tank.

The animal got out about 11:45 a.m. and headed in the direction of the zoo police station, a spokesman said. His absence was almost immediately detected. About 22 minutes later, the orangutan was "darted" with a tranquilizer gun fired by a veterinarian.


10-year-old charged in father's killing

A 10-year-old boy accused of fatally shooting his father in the chest has been charged with voluntary manslaughter.

Officials offered no motive and few details about the slaying in Fairmount, a town of 3,100 about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis. The fifth-grader, charged Monday in juvenile court, was being held in a detention center.

"The charge speaks for itself," said James Luttrull, chief deputy prosecutor for Grant County. "It's an appropriate charge based on all the circumstances." He refused to elaborate.

Wayne Salyers Sr., 36, was found dead in the boy's bedroom Friday night by officers responding to a 911 call, police said. A petition filed in court alleges the child knowingly killed his father "while acting under sudden heat."

The boy's attorney, Martin Lake, denied the charge at Monday's hearing. "He wants to go home with his mother," said Lake, a public defender.

New York

1971 Attica prison riot lawsuit settled

A federal judge has determined how an $8 million settlement will be divided among inmates caught in the deadly 1971 Attica prison riots.

The 502 former inmates or their families are to receive anywhere from $6,500 to $125,000 from the settlement plan devised by U.S. District Judge Michael Telesca and announced Monday.

In earlier agreeing to settle the 26-year-old lawsuit, the state admitted no wrongdoing and agreed to pay the inmates $8 million and their lawyers $4 million in fees. The original class-action lawsuit in 1974 sought $100 million in damages.

Inmates took over parts of the state prison in western New York on Sept. 9, 1971. A standoff ended four days later when state police launched an all-out assault on orders from then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Of the 1,281 inmates in the prison yard when police launched their assault, hundreds have since died. Most of the former inmates who will receive money are in their 50s or older.


7-year-old girl abducted, slain

A 7-year-old girl was found slain along a road on the day she was supposed to start first grade, and a friend of the family was arrested on charges of raping and murdering her. Bobbie Jo Barry had disappeared early Sunday from the home she shared with her father.

When she was abducted, 12 friends and family members were spending the night at her house in Marion, about 40 miles from Columbus. She was last seen sleeping in bed with her 9-year-old sister.

Bobbie Jo's body was found by a bicyclist Monday afternoon four miles from her home, ending a two-day search by family and friends.

Barry Satta, 38, was arrested Monday on charges of aggravated murder, kidnap, rape and aggravated burglary. The girl's body was found less than a mile from his house. Police said on Tuesday that Satta was at the Barry house during the day on Saturday.

Los Angeles

Animal evidence found in damaged jet

Investigators found the first tangible evidence Tuesday that a bird might have been sucked into a jumbo jet's engine over the weekend, causing the airliner to spew big pieces of its rear assembly and make an emergency landing.

Investigators inspecting the scarred engine found animal matter and immediately sent it to a lab in Washington for DNA testing.

Passengers reported loud noises during takeoff Sunday of the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 747 en route from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Witnesses saw flames shoot from the aircraft.

The four-engine jet, with 449 people aboard, then circled over the ocean to dump fuel, and landed safely back at the airport. No one was injured.

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