Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Judge dismisses Columbine lawsuits
DENVER A federal judge yesterday dismissed most lawsuits filed against police and all claims against a school district by victims and relatives of people killed and injured at the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, lawyers said.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock said the lawsuits against the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Jefferson County school district could not stand because the two entities met the claim of government immunity.
But the judge would not dismiss one case against the sheriff’s office filed by the family of teacher Dave Sanders, who bled to death while awaiting rescue.
The family claimed police gave “repeated false assurances that help would be there in 10 minutes” over the telephone to teachers who were rendering aid to the stricken teacher.
The judge agreed.

U.S. to set up network for threat alerts
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said yesterday the administration would create a nationwide network to alert federal, state and local health officials of biological threats and coordinate their responses.
Mr. Ridge said the proposed “central clearinghouse” for doctors and other health workers would be part of his anti-terrorism strategy in the wake of anthrax attacks that have claimed five lives in the United States.

Anti-war teen-ager pulled from school
CHARLESTON, W.Va. The mother of a high-school student who was suspended last month for her anti-war, pro-anarchy stances has pulled the girl from school because of safety concerns.
The school said the girl’s actions disrupted student learning, and a Kanawha County Circuit judge upheld the suspension.
The West Virginia Supreme Court yesterday voted 3-2 not to consider Katie Sierra’s petition to prevent the lower court from “continuing to deny her freedom of speech.”

Court rules clergy can’t be sued
ALBANY, N.Y. Clergy members who disclose confidential information about parishioners can’t face financial liability for their actions, the state’s highest court ruled yesterday.
The Court of Appeals agreed 7-0 that while state law recognizes a right of confidentiality for statements made to clergy by penitents, it does not allow for wronged parties to sue if confidentiality is breached.
The determination means Chani Lightman of New York City cannot sue two Orthodox rabbis she contends repeated statements about her marital difficulties that she made in confidence to them.

Study finds no benefits to low-tar cigarettes
People who switch from regular cigarettes to brands marketed as “low tar” or “light” do not reduce their chances of getting smoking-related diseases, the National Cancer Institute said yesterday.
Some people who switched to light cigarettes, thinking they were less harmful, smoked more to preserve their intake of addictive nicotine, the report said.
In addition, tobacco companies produced cigarettes that yielded low tar and nicotine values when tested on Federal Trade Commission machines but higher levels when smoked by people, the report found.

Oregon official clears way for questioning
SALEM, Ore. The Oregon attorney general cleared the way yesterday for state police and prosecutors to question foreign visitors as part of the federal terrorism investigation, a step made after Portland police refused to do the interrogations.
Attorney General Hardy Myers said state law doesn’t forbid his agency or state police “from conducting such interviews as part of a criminal investigation to identify and apprehend people who have conspired, or are conspiring, to commit crimes.”
Portland police have refused a request from U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to interview foreign visitors on grounds that it would violate state privacy laws

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