The government may not give special preference to women in awarding broadcast licenses, a federal appeals court panel ruled Wednesday in an opinion written by Clarence Thomas. Such preference, part of a Federal Communications Commission policy aimed at giving women a bigger role in broadcasting, unconstitutionally discriminates against men, the ruling said. Thomas heard the case before his confirmation to the Supreme Court and while he was a member of the appeals panel. The Legal Times of Washington reported last fall that the panel had reached its conclusion but delayed announcing it to avoid controversy during Thomas' confirmation hearings. Judge James Buckley, who joined in the panel's 2-1 decision, said the paper's account was based on "preliminary drafts." He called for an investigation to find the source of a possible leak. In 1990, the Supreme Court had upheld the FCC's policy giving special preferences to minorities who apply for broadcast licenses. But that decision had left unanswered whether a policy giving preference to women also was constitutional. The appeals court panel, led by Thomas, said no.
Case a test for abortion fight
CHICAGO _ Calling anti-abortion protesters "terrorists," a lawyer for the National Organization for Women asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to decide whether their protests break racketeering and antitrust laws. The case could have far-reaching implications for the battle over abortion. Attorney Fay Clayton said the protesters take the law into their own hands and attempt to limit abortion by what amounts to restraint of trade. NOW is appealing a lower court's ruling that anti-abortion protesters do not violate antitrust laws because they are engaged in political, not commercial, activity and that racketeering laws do not apply to protesters because they are not seeking financial gain. The panel did not rule immediately on the appeal.
Former Bush aide on stand
MIAMI _ George Bush's former top aide made a cameo appearance at Manuel Noriega's drug trial Wednesday, but didn't face any questioning about his boss' relationship with the ousted Panamanian leader. Retired Adm. Daniel Murphy was asked only about Panama's cooperation in allowing the Coast Guard to board suspect vessels. Murphy _ now a private consultant _ served as Bush's chief of staff from 1981 to 1985, also heading the then-vice president's South Florida Task Force on drugs. He agreed with the defense that Panama's cooperation in allowing drug-boat boardings led to the seizure of 1.9-million pounds of marijuana between 1981 and 1986. Noriega, who surrendered to U.S. troops following the December 1989 invasion of Panama, could serve a maximum 140 years in prison if convicted on all 10 drug and racketeering charges.
Coin redesign rejected: The U.S. House on Wednesday rejected, 241-172, a proposal to redesign the nation's coins. The legislation would have ordered the reverse or tails sides of all coins to be redesigned at the rate of at least one a year, beginning in January.
Rocket launch delayed: Thunderstorm clouds and lightning at Cape Canaveral forced another delay Wednesday in the Air Force's attempt to launch a Delta rocket with a military navigation satellite. The Air Force said it would try again Sunday evening.
IRA fugitive deported: Irish Republican Army fugitive Joseph Doherty was deported to Britain on Wednesday to face a life sentence for killing a British soldier, ending a 10-year battle for sanctuary in the United States.
Japanese college president killed: Iwao Matsuda, president of Chukyo University in Nagoya, Japan, who came to Boston to celebrate a sister school agreement with the University of Massachusetts-Boston, was shot and killed by a masked gunman in a room at the Westin Hotel Tuesday night.
More blacks going to college: More black students are enrolled in college than ever before, the United Negro College Fund said Wednesday. A study showed 1.2-million black students are pursuing college educations.
Judge rules against loggers: A federal judge in Portland, Ore., issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday blocking all logging in old-growth forests on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property because of danger to the northern spotted owl's habitat.
Community pushes biles: Greenfield, Calif., has required two proposed housing developments to put two bikes in every new home to encourage residents to pedal around instead of driving smog-spewing cars.