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News Briefs, part 2

Hinckley Gives Up Rights to Life Story to Men He Shot

The Washington Post

Former White House press secretary James S. Brady and two others wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan have gained legal control of gunman John W. Hinckley Jr.'s life story and plan to offer the rights for sale to book publishers, movie producers and others, Brady's lawyer said Thursday.

In an unusual settlement to a 13-year-old lawsuit against Hinckley, the would-be assassin surrendered all rights to his story to Brady, former Secret Service agent Timothy J. McCarthy and former D.C. police officer Thomas K. Delahanty.

The out-of-court agreement, signed Monday, also requires Hinckley, who is confined to a mental hospital, to cooperate in any projects undertaken by purchasers of the rights, according to Brady's attorney, Frederic W. Schwartz Jr.

Schwartz said Brady, McCarthy and Delahanty - who have incorporated under the name The Victims Compensation Trust Fund Inc. - plan to hire an agent to market Hinckley's story to publishers and moviemakers. Although Schwartz described the rights as "a very interesting property," it was unclear how much bidding Hinckley's story might generate.

Breyer Cites Increased Caseload

The Washington Post

He said his subject was dull. He said it was boring. He said it would put people to sleep.

But newest Justice Stephen G. Breyer did protest too much.

In a speech to a small group of lawyers Thursday, Breyer talked about how courts do their job, including the importance of judges using congressional reports and other legislative history to understand the law.

He bemoaned that law was becoming too specialized and that judges were increasingly relying on regulatory experts for interpretations of statutes.

Breyer's speech showcased his blithe side. He poked fun at himself for his interest in the arcane. He spoke rapidly, but his mind sometimes raced ahead of his tongue, as he stitched together anecdotes, statistics and commentary.

He acknowledged that as a sitting justice, "There's more and more about which I can say less and less."

Breyer spoke of problems judges have in interpreting the law: A growing caseload. More complicated and technical disputes. And vaguely written statutes.

Breyer, who as an aide spent several years writing statutes in the Senate, said judges should use committee reports, floor speeches and other legislative history to clarify what Congress wanted in a law.

Democrats Accuse Gingrich of House Rules Violation

The Washington Post

House Democrats Thursday accused Speaker Newt Gingrich of violating the chamber's rules and federal law by accepting up to $200,000 in free television time from a cable TV operator with business interests pending before Congress - the latest in a series of ethics complaints against the Georgia Republican.

The charge was outlined in a three-page complaint filed with the House ethics committee by Democratic Reps. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and Harry A. Johnston of Florida. The lawmakers asked the ethics panel to investigate their allegation that the cable station's airing of Gingrich's college course constitutes an illegal gift.

A Colorado cable network called Mind Extension University has aired Gingrich's course live on Saturday mornings since early January. A spokesman for Jones Intercable Inc., a part owner of the network and the nation's seventh largest cable operator, said the network does not charge to broadcast not-for-credit courses, like Gingrich's, while it determines whether the program is popular.

The spokesman, Jim W. Carlson, said most of the several dozen courses the network broadcasts are offered for credit, and the network collects a percentage of the tuition from the colleges that sponsor those courses. He said the network is negotiating with Reinhardt College in Georgia to carry Gingrich's course for credit and collect some of the tuition.

Viacom Lobbies Senate for Bill To Save $400 Million Tax Break

The Washington Post

On Wednesday, just a day after the House of Representatives voted to repeal a federal program that would give Viacom Inc. a $400 million tax break, executives of the company were telling Wall Street analysts not to worry. The Senate, the executives said, was unlikely to go along with killing the program.

In fact, Viacom - the media giant that owns Paramount Pictures and the Blockbuster video chain - has been counting on the Senate's help all along, according to people at the company and Wall Street firms. Viacom believes it has greater influence in Congress' upper chamber and will be helped by Senate rules that effectively permit a single lawmaker to block a bill.

Viacom is trying to preserve the FCC program in order to complete the $2.3 billion sale of its cable TV systems to a group headed by a minority businessman. The FCC currently permits sellers of media properties to defer indefinitely capital-gains taxes following such sales as a way to promote greater diversity of media ownership. Viacom's tax savings of such a deal could be more than $400 million.

So far, no Viacom champions have emerged in the Senate. But the company confirmed Thursday that it has hired six law firms to help in the search, one more than it retained in late 1993, when it was fighting QVC Inc. for control of Paramount. Viacom's legal team includes Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, the Washington firm whose leading partner is former Democratic National Committee Chairman Robert Strauss, now ambassador to Russia.