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News Briefs, part 2

Tribe Donates $10 Million to Planned Indian Museum

The Washington Post

The Mashantucket Pequot tribe, whose two-year-old Connecticut casino is the largest in North America, Monday donated $10 million to the planned National Museum of the American Indian. The gift is the largest single cash contribution in the Smithsonian Institution's 148-year history.

The 230-member tribe's first gaming ventures did not begin until the mid-1980s, but they have already financed a series of sizable donations, including $500,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $2 million to next year's Special Olympics World Games. The Pequot casino reportedly earns profits of $600 million a year.

The American Indian Museum will eventually consist of three complexes devoted to exhibition, research and preservation of Native American culture: the main museum near the Air and Space Museum on the Mall, for which construction is to begin in 1996 with a 2001 completion date; the restored U.S. Custom House in New York, which opens Sunday; and a cultural resource center in Suitland, which is scheduled to open in 1997. That building, expected to cost around $50 million, will be largely paid for by the federal government.

The bulk of the contents of all three museums will come from the 1 million objects collected by George Gustav Heye, a New York banker who founded the former Museum of the American Indian in New York. The Smithsonian obtained the collection, considered one of the finest in the world, in June 1990. Since then, most of it has remained in storage.

Pipe Dream Settlement: $750 Million

The Washington Post

Three big chemical companies Monday tentatively agreed to completely reimburse consumers who have defective polybutylene pipes in their homes, a settlement that could cost the manufacturers a minimum of $750 million. The settlement could affect an estimated 6 million homeowners nationally.

If the settlement is approved by a federal judge in Texas, it would be the largest property damage settlement in U.S. history, according to the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. The settlement calls for the companies to cover property damage, repair and replumbing costs at 100 cents on the dollar.

Monday's settlement involved a Texas class action suit against the three chemical companies- Shell Oil Co., E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Hoechst Celanese - that made the resin from which the pipes were formed.

Polybutylene plastic pipes were widely installed in homes beginning in 1981. However, they turned out to be sensitive to concentrations of chemicals commonly found in drinking water. For just that reason, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which supplies water to Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland, earlier this year banned installation of such pipes in homes in the two jurisdictions, although existing pipes do not have to be ripped out.