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News Briefs

Campaign a Close Race, Poll Shows


Vice President Al Gore has won the latest round of the battle with Texas Gov. George W. Bush to be viewed by voters as the presidential candidate best able to fix the nation’s troubled public schools, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Gore has passed Bush as the candidate the public trusts more to deal with education, which was ranked by voters as crucial in determining their vote this election year. Many Americans remain skeptical or are opposed to key provisions of Bush’s education reform plan.

At the same time, the poll found that Gore has lost his advantage over Bush on other issues important to voters. And his decision to break with President Clinton and support legislation that would allow 6-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez to remain permanently in the United States puts Gore at odds with the growing majority of Americans who favor returning the child to his father in Cuba.

The poll’s mixed messages to both candidates are reflected in the overall horse race, which remains deadlocked. According to the poll, Gore claims 47 percent of the hypothetical vote among registered voters and Bush is the choice of 46 percent.

A total of 1,083 randomly selected adults were interviewed March 30 to April 2 for this survey, including 892 self-described registered voters. Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Supreme Court to Rule on Legal Aid Lawyer Restrictions


The Supreme Court on Monday said it will decide whether federally funded lawyers for the poor have a free-speech right to challenge the government’s new restrictions on welfare.

The case, to be heard in the fall, renews a long-running fight between advocates for the poor and congressional conservatives.

For the justices, the case also revives a continuing dispute over whether the government can limit the First Amendment rights of artists, doctors or lawyers as a condition of their eligibility for federal support.

Since 1974, the government has subsidized lawyers for the poor through the Legal Services Corp. These lawyers do not handle criminal cases, instead giving advice or representing low-income people with problems ranging from divorces and consumer complaints to loss of benefits for disabilities, health care or welfare.

Conservatives in Congress have long complained the government should not pay lawyers to carry out political agendas. They have argued that lawyers who are subsidized by the government should represent individual clients only and should not be allowed to lobby legislators or go to court to challenge federal and state policies.

A Clue to Sexual Orientation


Can you tell someone’s sexual orientation by looking at their fingers? The answer, according to new research, is sort of, at least for lesbians.

Heterosexual women tend to have index and ring fingers that are about the same length, especially on their right hands, while men tend to have index fingers that are shorter than their ring fingers.

S. Marc Breedlove and colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley surveyed 720 adults who were attending public street fairs in San Francisco about their gender, age, sexual orientation and siblings, and measured their fingers.

Compared with straight women, lesbians tended to have fingers that were more like heterosexual men, the researchers found. Homosexual men’s fingers did not differ significantly from those of straight men. But the more older brothers a boy had, the more likely he was to be homosexual, the researchers found.