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Tour guide tests weighed by court

PHILADELPHIA | A federal appeals court appeared unlikely to overturn a city law requiring tour guides to pass a history test in Philadelphia, if only because the city lacks funds to even draft the test.

Three tour guides in the nation’s birthplace are challenging the law on free-speech grounds. They argue that the government cannot limit legal speech, or even the occasionally skewed fact.

“The First Amendment protects your right to communicate for a living, and that’s true whether you’re a tour guide or a newspaper reporter or a standup comedian,” said lawyer Robert J. McNamara, who represents the guides.

Mr. McNamara insists his clients are well-versed in history and could pass any test the city coughed up. They would not fight a voluntary test that came with bragging rights in the form of a certificate, he said, but they think a mandatory test amounts to licensing speech.

He works for the libertarian Institute of Justice, an Arlington, Va.-based organization that fights eminent-domain cases and other claims of government intrusions. Its clients include a group of wood-carving monks challenging a Louisiana law that limits casket sales to funeral directors.

Several other cities, including Washington, D.C.; New Orleans; and Savannah, Ga., test and license tour guides.


Fat cleanup finished in channel

HOUSTON | The Coast Guard says crews have finished clearing the Houston Ship Channel of solidified beef fat that leaked from a tank on shore.

Petty Officer Richard Brahm says the cleanup was completed Monday, six days after some of the 250,000 gallons of leaking fat reached the water, creating floating lumps of fat resembling icebergs.

Petty Officer Brahm said Tuesday the ship channel was open and traffic was moving. The leak was detected Jan. 4, forcing the temporary closure of part of the channel.

The Coast Guard said about 15,000 gallons reached the channel through a storm drain. The liquid fat became solid when it came into contact with the cold water.

The Coast Guard says the tank is owned by Jacob Sterns and Sons and that the company cooperated on the cleanup.

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