- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

Menorah can shine on city plaza, court says

The city of Cincinnati cannot bar a Jewish organization from displaying a menorah on a downtown plaza during the holidays, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday, the first day of Hanukkah.

In its ruling yesterday, the high court lifted a stay by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, noting the square's historic character as a public forum.

A municipal ordinance says only the city can use Fountain Square during the last two weeks of November through the first week of January. The ordinance grew out of the city's efforts to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from erecting a cross during the Christmas season.

Chabad of Southern Ohio, a nonprofit Jewish organization, challenged the ordinance, saying it violated the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

Grissom's spacesuit ignites a battle

INDIANAPOLIS The family of astronaut Gus Grissom is battling NASA over ownership of the spacesuit he wore when he became the second American in space.

NASA officials say Mr. Grissom never brought back the 1961 Mercury suit he borrowed for a show-and-tell session at a school.

But Scott Grissom says his father, who died in a 1967 Apollo 1 training exercise fire, took the suit from a NASA storage facility because he feared the agency would discard it.

Scott Grissom said the family lent the suit in 1989 to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Museum in Titusville, Fla., where it remains on display. When he and his 75-year-old mother, Betty, tried to retrieve the suit last month, NASA officials stepped in and said it was government property.

Lawyers are negotiating over the suit's ownership.

El Nino steered hurricanes from U.S.

The Atlantic storm season that ends today was the calmest in five years, and forecasters were thanking the climate phenomenon known as El Nino.

Don't expect such help next year, though: Storm expert William Gray said El Nino will probably be gone before the new season begins, July 1, and he echoed the concerns of other forecasters over the potential for a killer storm.

"It's quite ominous because there's been such a buildup of people along the southeast coast," said Mr. Gray, of Colorado State University.

The season produced a dozen tropical storms, two more than average. The four hurricanes Gustav, Isidore, Kyle and Lili were two fewer than average, and all developed in less than a month: between Sept. 8 and Oct. 4

El Nino is characterized by an abnormally warm sea surface in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. This results in increased evaporation and rising air currents that can affect the winds overhead that steer the movement of weather.

Medical marijuana sparks attitude change

Law enforcement officials in four of the eight states that allow medical use of marijuana say the laws have not hampered crime-fighting, although they at times complicate prosecution of drug cases, a congressional report said yesterday

In some cases law enforcement officials said the marijuana laws resulted in a "general softening" in attitudes among the public toward marijuana.

The report by the General Accounting Office said that only a small fraction of the people in Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska used marijuana for medical purposes. The results in California, the fourth state studied, were limited to four counties and no statewide data was available.

Some in law enforcement said the laws allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana has complicated efforts to seize illegal marijuana or to prosecute some cases, according to the GAO report.

Pay to walk bridge, if you please

SAN FRANCISCO Golden Gate Bridge officials are hoping pedestrians who cross the landmark span to gawk at the view will be inspired to pay a voluntary toll.

The agency that operates the bridge plans to install donation boxes for pedestrians this spring in an effort to help overcome an expected $236 million shortfall over the next five years.

Officials have tossed around the idea of charging a formal pedestrian toll for months, but public outcry from cyclist groups and other local bridge users put the idea on the back burner.

Most motorists saw their tolls increase from $3 to $5 earlier this year, but the increase isn't raising enough money to balance the budget.

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