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Nation in brief

FBI director survives meeting ACLU

By Times Wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 14, 2003

WASHINGTON - The director of the FBI wandered into a lion's den of critics Friday and emerged, for the most part, unscathed.

In a speech before more than 1,400 avowed "card-carrying" members of the American Civil Liberties Union, the director, Robert Mueller, declared that the FBI and the ACLU - though often at odds - share a bond of respect for the Constitution and for civil liberties. He even co-opted one of the group's slogans, saying that in the fight against terrorism, the nation must be "both safe and free."

Mueller fielded tough and often skeptical questions from the audience on everything from the sweeping antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act to racial profiling. But he also defused tensions with a lively wit that contrasted with the somber tone he usually adopts in public.

Tough N.M. sex offender law struck down

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The city's tough new sex offender registration law was struck down Friday by a judge who called it unconstitutional.

Judge Ted Baca agreed with civil rights attorneys who had sued to stop implementation of the ordinance, which was passed by the City Council and signed by the mayor in April.

The ACLU said the law was the toughest of its kind in the country and effectively banished pedophiles, rapists and other former sex criminals from the city.

The law required sex offenders to register with police and notify employers and landlords of their criminal history. The measure also prevented sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school and required them to give police DNA samples and imprints of feet and teeth, if asked.

Cardinal says sex abuse panel chair should resign

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles suggested Friday that former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating should resign as chairman of a panel on child sexual abuse by priests after Keating compared the nation's Roman Catholic bishops to the Mafia.

Some members of the panel also condemned Keating's choice of words. But they said they shared his frustration over "foot-dragging" by a minority of bishops, including Mahony, in providing information for a study of sexual abuse in the church.

The acrimony erupted as the bishops prepared to meet in St. Louis next week.

Jury returns $49-million verdict in vitamin case

WASHINGTON - A federal jury returned a $49-million verdict Friday against four companies that make and sell vitamins, finding they conspired to fix vitamin prices.

If the verdict stands, it would be tripled to $147-million under federal antitrust laws.

The companies found liable in the civil case are animal feed manufacturer DuCoa LP of Highland, Ill.; its parent company, DCV Inc. of Wilmington, Del.; Japanese trading firm Mitsui & Co. Ltd.; and its New York subsidiary, Mitsui & Co. (USA) Inc.

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