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World Briefs I

Clinton Urges High Court To Uphold Diversity Ruling

los angeles times
washington

The Clinton administration on Friday urged the Supreme Court to uphold a ruling awarding damages to a white New Jersey teacher laid off by a school board that sought to promote racial diversity by keeping an equally qualified black instructor.

But Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger implored the justices to interpret the case narrowly and not use it as a vehicle to bar any affirmative action-related employment decisions except those made to remedy past discrimination.

If the court chooses to tackle the broader issue, Dellinger said there are circumstances - not presented by the New Jersey case - where employers should be able to take race into account for reasons other than remedying past discrimination.

These would include a law enforcement agency assigning an undercover officer of the same race to infiltrate a racially homogenous gang, or taking action to achieve a racially diverse police force to win public support needed to prevent and solve crime against a backdrop of racial unrest, Dellinger said.

But in the case of the white Piscataway, N.J., business education teacher, Dellinger asked that the justices affirm the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in her favor solely on the ground that the layoff "unnecessarily trammeled" her interests.

The 3rd Circuit ruling "erred" by going further and holding that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bars "all nonremedial, race-conscious employment decisions," Dellinger said.

White House Eases Travel Restrictions to Cuba for Papal Visit

los angeles times
washington

The Clinton administration on Friday eased slightly its restrictions on travel to Cuba, authorizing Roman Catholics to charter a cruise ship to the Communist-ruled island when Pope John Paul II visits there in January.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin announced the decision to permit about 1,000 pilgrims to make the trip, on a vessel provided by the Archdiocese of Miami, to attend a Mass on the final day of the pope's planned five-day visit.

"The United States government views the pope's visit as a potentially important event in bringing to the Cuban people a message of hope and the need for respect of human rights," Rubin said.

Although Friday's announcement covered only the Miami archdiocese plans, Rubin hinted that Americans may also be permitted to travel to the island by other means during the papal visit. He did not elaborate.

President Clinton last year tightened restrictions on travel from the United States to Cuba, banning charter flights and other direct transportation. Scheduled airline service from the United States to Cuba has been prohibited for most of the nearly four decades that Fidel Castro has ruled the island.

The restrictions are designed primarily to deny Cuba the money that tourists would bring. Visits are not expressly forbidden, but Americans are prohibited from spending money in Cuba without a license from the Treasury Department.

Wisconsin Appeals Court Bars School Vouchers

The Washington Post

An appeals court in Wisconsin dealt another blow to the nation's school-choice movement Friday, ruling that a plan to give needy students in Milwaukee publicly paid tuition vouchers to attend religious schools violates the state constitution.

In a case examining one of the most divisive issues in American education, the Wisconsin court held 2 to 1 that Milwaukee's voucher program, which allows 1,600 students to attend private schools at state expense, cannot be expanded to religious schools because it would infringe on the separation of church and state.

The ruling upholds a lower court decision in Wisconsin earlier this year, and is the latest of several recent legal setbacks for advocates of school vouchers. In May, a state appeals court in Ohio prevented religious schools in Cleveland from joining a new voucher program. Educators and lawmakers nationwide have been closely watching the cases because the states are the first to experiment with vouchers. Voucher opponents said Friday's Wisconsin decision is significant because it could persuade other states to forgo plans to adopt similar programs in their schools.

"This decision sends a strong message to the nation that taxpayers should not be forced to support private religious education," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Advocates of vouchers, who vowed to appeal the decision to Wisconsin's Supreme Court, called the defeat minor. The school voucher case in Ohio is headed to that state's Supreme Court.