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News Briefs

Calif. Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect O.J. Simpson's Trial

Los Angeles Times

In a case that could affect the admissibility of DNA evidence in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the California Supreme Court began deliberating Monday whether to give trial judges greater flexibility to allow scientific evidence at trials.

The high court, hearing oral arguments in a Huntington Beach, Calif., drunk driving case, has been asked by California Attorney General Dan Lungren to broaden the state's evidence rules to allow controversial DNA testing. Under current law, scientific evidence can be admitted if it is generally accepted by the scientific community.

Members of the court, however, provided little insight into their thinking on the DNA issue, dwelling largely on questions about a common field sobriety test in which police officers check the eye movements of suspected drunk drivers.

The drunk driving case comes before the court on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision adopting the broad standard advocated by Lungren that would give trial judges more discretion in the kinds of scientific evidence they admit.

But some prosecutors - as well as public defenders and corporate defense attorneys - worry that such a standard would open the door for all kinds of "junk science" that could be difficult for trial judges to sort out.

Lockheed, Martin Marietta Agree to Form Defense Colossus

Los Angeles Times

Lockheed and Martin Marietta, the nation's second- and third- largest defense contractors, disclosed late Monday an agreement to merge the two companies, creating an aerospace colossus with $23 billion in annual sales.

The deal dramatically accelerates the pace of defense industry consolidation, which is concentrating arms-making in the hands of a few major contractors and boosting the industry's efficiency - but at the cost of thousands of jobs across the country.

The deal, described as a "merger of equals," will involve a stock swap valued at $10 billion and create a company with 170,000 employees, making this by far the biggest in a series of successively larger defense industry combinations.

The new company would control as much as 20 percent of U.S. defense spending, leaving rivals struggling to match its unparalleled financial, technical and political power.

A combination would give the company market power in virtually every major high technology market segment, dwarfing such traditional high-tech giants as Hughes Aircraft Co., Northrop-Grumman Corp., Loral Corp. and TRW.

World Religions Split Deeper Before Population Conference

Los Angeles Times

Religious battle lines tightened Tuesday for the upcoming International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, as Saudi Arabia and Sudan withdrew and two other Muslim states downgraded their missions.

The Roman Catholic Church has mounted a spirited attack on the conference's draft proposals for several months, castigating the discussions of birth control and abortion as immoral. But the chorus of derision also has swelled in recent weeks from Muslims who insist that the subjects are abhorrent and contrary to Islamic faith.

Critics have accused Pope John Paul II of seeking an alliance with Islamic extremists to oppose the conference, but the Vatican has denied it.

U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian who belongs to his country's Coptic Christian minority, professed a lack of concern over the withdrawals from the conference. He told reporters U.N. member states "are free to come or not to come" to such conferences.

Muslim distaste for the conference is so great that some faithful filed a lawsuit trying to force its cancellation, accusing the U.N. of organizing a conference that ran counter to Islamic beliefs. But an Egyptian court, after a 30-second hearing, rejected the suit Tuesday, stating Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had the right to invite the conference to Egypt.