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Archive for Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Briefly

November 20, 2002

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New York City: Ruling on mask ban a victory for KKK

Members of the Ku Klux Klan may demonstrate in their ceremonial hoods, a judge ruled Tuesday, saying a state law banning masks at public gatherings is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. said the First Amendment required him to reject New York's law finding a person guilty of loitering for joining a masked group.

He added that New York City engaged in viewpoint discrimination when it applied the law to the Klan but not to other groups in similar scenarios.

The Klan pursued its case after members were forced to assemble without their hoods at an October 1999 Manhattan event.

California: New charges filed in 'Bumfights' case

Prosecutors brought new charges Tuesday against four men accused of paying the homeless to fight for a videotape, saying the defendants induced some of the brawls by offering beer and doughnuts.

The men were charged with battery, illegal fight promotion and conspiracy in connection with the "Bumfights: A Cause for Concern" videotape sold over the Internet. They were already charged with soliciting an assault with deadly force.

All four entered innocent pleas and said through their attorneys they plan to challenge the charges. Defense lawyers have said much of the action on the tape was staged and contend the charges are vague and legally inadequate.

A note posted on the Bumfights Web site called the charges "nonsense" and said a sequel was in the works.

The defendants are Ryan McPherson, 19; Zachary Bubeck, 25; Daniel J. Tanner, 21; and Michael Slyman, 21.

Texas: Crews find body of pilot who jumped out of plane

The body of a man under investigation for stealing a NASA laptop computer was found Tuesday, two days after he fell out of a small plane in what authorities said looked like a suicidal plunge.

The search for Russell Filler, 47, began Sunday after he fell out of the plane at 9,000 feet.

Waller County Sheriff's Lt. John Kremmer said the fall appeared to be intentional and that Filler apparently had no parachute. The body was found five miles outside Waller, which is about 35 miles northwest of Houston.

Filler was an engineer who had worked since 1996 for United Space Alliance, which contracts with NASA to do tests for the international space station.

He was contacted Thursday by federal authorities about the Oct. 25 disappearance of a NASA-owned laptop later found at his home.

Officials said the laptop did not contain any sensitive information.

Washington, D.C.: Metabolife turns over more health complaints

A leading seller of the dietary supplement ephedra gave the government records of 1,400 customer complaints Tuesday, including 14 that mention serious side effects.

Metabolife International already had turned over 14,700 customer health complaints as the Justice Department in August began a criminal investigation into whether the company had lied about ephedra's safety.

Ephedra is a popular herb commonly used for weight loss and body building, but it also has been linked to heart attacks, strokes and other serious side effects. Critics have called on the Food and Drug Administration to ban sales, and the agency has long sought manufacturers' records of consumer health problems as part of its safety investigation.

In 1998 Metabolife denied it had ever received any consumer complaints of serious side effects.

In the complaints now disclosed, three deaths, 20 heart attacks and 24 strokes are mentioned.

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