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World Briefs I

Court Allows Baltimore to Ban Cigarette Ads on Billboards

Los Angeles Times

In another setback for the tobacco industry, the Supreme Court Monday cleared the way for Baltimore to enforce a citywide ban on billboards advertising cigarettes or beer.

The move, while not a final ruling on the matter, is likely to encourage other cities to ban public ads for tobacco products. It also suggests the Clinton administration may not face a First Amendment barrier in seeking to restrict cigarette advertising directed at minors.

The Baltimore case has been seen as a test of whether such restrictions could survive a First Amendment challenge.

In 1994, the Baltimore city council passed the ordinance in an effort to shield young people, especially in the inner city, from the pervasive influence of giant billboards touting tobacco and alcohol. Industry groups and advertisers quickly challenged the measure on First Amendment grounds.

The Supreme Court, in its ruling Monday, did not hand down a written ruling on the First Amendment issue at stake in the Baltimore case (Penn Advertising vs. Baltimore, 96-1429), but simply refused to take up the matter. Thus, Monday's ruling left open the prospect the high court will address the issue in a future case.

State Securities Officials Reach Pact on Regulating Planners

The Washington Post

Investors doing business with small investment advisory and financial planning firms could get some long-awaited help from regulators under an agreement hammered out by state securities officials.

The North American Securities Administrators Association announced Monday that its members have signed a memorandum of understanding on an initiative to protect customers of investment advisory firms and financial planners who manage less than $25 million.

The agreement marks the first time any regulator - national or local - has said it will supervise this largely unregulated industry, according to state officials who signed the document Sunday in Washington.

Americans increasingly rely on financial advisers and planners, who, unlike stockbrokers, may not be registered with any securities regulator. Federal and state authorities say they worry that inexperienced investors are especially vulnerable to incompetent or dishonest planners.

The association's memorandum of understanding comes a year after Congress delegated to the states regulatory power over second-tier advisers and planners.

The Securities and Exchange Commission previously had responsibility to supervise advisers, but said its resources were not adequate to allow it to focus on more than the giant companies such as Fidelity Investments and the Vanguard Group.

Congress shifted regulatory oversight of smaller firms to the states as part of the National Securities Markets Improvement Act of 1996.

Peng's Death Likely to Boost Chinese Leader Jiang's Clout

Los Angeles Times

The death over the weekend of one of the last remaining political contemporaries of China's late "paramount leader," Deng Xiaoping, will probably strengthen President Jiang Zemin's hold on power in the world's most populous country, analysts said Monday.

Peng Zhen, one of the so-called Eight Immortals in China because of his role in the Communist takeover of 1949 and his enduring influence, died late Saturday. He was 95.

Peng's official obituary took pains to note that the former head of the National People's Congress "resolutely supported the central collective leadership with Comrade Jiang Zemin at the core." The obituary praised Peng as a "great proletarian revolutionary" who was a "major founder of the socialist legal system in China."

Ironically, however, he also was a backer of Deng's capitalist-style reforms. Likewise in his sometimes contradictory career, Peng joined Deng in taking a tough stance against pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but was the chief architect of a fledgling democracy program in China's villages.