Archive for Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Briefly

April 13, 2004

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Washington, D.C.

Scalia apologizes for tapes' erasure

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, responding to complaints over a federal marshal's erasing of journalists' tape recordings last week, said he regretted the incident, and he sent a letter of apology to the two reporters.

"The action was not taken at my direction. I was as upset as you were," Scalia said in a letter sent Friday to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

In the future, he said, he would permit print reporters to record his speeches, but would continue to insist on his "First Amendment right not to speak on radio or television." Since joining the Supreme Court in 1986, Scalia has barred audio and visual recordings when he speaks in public, although reporters are usually permitted to take notes.

Ironically, Scalia suggested in his letter that his speech last week in Hattiesburg, Miss., had been misquoted.

Allowing reporters to record his words "will, as you say, promote accurate reporting, so that no one will quote me as having said that 'people just don't revere (the Constitution) like they used to.'"

Washington, D.C.

Buried veterans' records now on Internet

The Department of Veterans Affairs has made it easier and faster for the public to get answers about family history, old war buddies or famous war heroes. The agency put on the Web 3.2 million records for veterans buried at 120 national cemeteries since the Civil War.

The VA's Nationwide Gravesite Locator, at www.cem.va.gov, also has records for some state veterans cemeteries and burials in Arlington National Cemetery since 1999.

Joe Nosari, VA's deputy chief information officer for Memorial Affairs, said the records used to be on paper and microfilm. Private companies have put some of the information online and charged for it, but the VA information is free, he said.

Florida

Papers drop lawsuit over Earnhardt photos

Two Florida newspapers, citing a recent Supreme Court decision, dropped their challenge Monday to a state law restricting access to autopsy photos that was passed after the death of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.

The Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel had sued after a medical examiner refused to release the photos. They said the restriction violated the state constitution.

Several newspapers sought access to the photos as questions arose over how Earnhardt died in the 2001 crash and whether safety measures were sufficient.

Charlotte H. Hall, vice president and editor of the Sentinel, said it would be difficult to win after the Supreme Court ruled in a separate case about photographs of former deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster. The court decided the pictures should remain sealed, citing family privacy concerns.

India

Stampede for free saris kills 21 at celebration

Thousands of people crowding into a park for a politician's birthday celebration and to receive free saris stampeded Monday, killing 21 women and children, officials said.

The stampede came two weeks ahead of parliamentary elections in Lucknow, the capital of India's politically crucial Uttar Pradesh state and the constituency of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was headed to the city after the stampede.

The confirmed death toll stood at 21, said Lucknow's senior police superintendent, Rajiv Ranjan Verma.

Thousands of people had gathered under a huge white canopy to celebrate the birthday of Lalji Tandon, the state's opposition leader.

The dead included seven young girls who had lined up to receive saris, Dr. Lalit Saxena said.

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