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Justice Dept. Will Decide If KKK Can Adopt Highway


The Ku Klux Klan’s bid officially to “adopt a highway” near St. Louis will be weighed by the Justice Department before the Supreme Court takes up the issue.

The high court on Monday asked the government’s lawyers to say whether the nation’s civil rights laws would be violated by allowing a racist group to “adopt a highway” that was built with federal funds.

All but two states have such programs and they are credited with beautifying thousands of miles of roadway. Volunteers plant shrubs and clean up litter. In exchange, the state posts roadway signs acknowledging the contributions of the civic groups.

In an attempt to clean up their image, Klan leaders in several states have asked to join the program but they have been rebuffed repeatedly.

Last year, however, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh in St. Louis ruled that the Klan had a free-speech right to participate in the state’s program on an equal basis.

Ironically, Missouri Klan leader Michael Cuffley had sued the state under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, the post-Civil War era measure that allows persons to sue states when their constitutional rights are violated.

“The Klan believes in racial segregation and white supremacy,” the judge said, but “the Constitution of the United States protects (its) right to express that ideology as freely as one whose views society embraces. ... (The state) cannot use its regulations to target the Klan’s unfortunate beliefs,” concluded Judge Limbaugh. (He is the uncle of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.)

In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s ruling but Missouri officials appealed the question to the Supreme Court during the summer.

OPEC Plans to Boost Production


Worried by the impact of high energy costs on the global economy, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries announced Monday that it would raise production for the fourth time this year in yet another attempt to knock down world oil prices.

But oil analysts warned that the decision to lift output by an extra 500,000 barrels a day was largely symbolic and appeared unlikely to offer consumers immediate relief at the gasoline pump. Nearly all OPEC members are pumping oil at maximum capacity -- at levels higher than at any time for the past 20 years -- and may not be able to meet their expanded quotas.

“The big problem is the shortage of refining capacity,” said Mehdi Varzi, director of oil research at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson in London. “There is actually a lot of crude oil available, but Europe and the United States are close to the limits of their ability to turn the stuff into gasoline and heating oil.”

Once the refining bottleneck clears up, the surplus production of crude oil could lead to a substantial decline in prices. But Varzi and others contend that it may take at least two months for the new supplies to work their way through the system and start pushing down the retail price of gasoline and heating oil.

“If the weather turns really cold, we may see a slight rise in prices,” said Leo Drollas, chief economist for the Center for Global Energy Studies in London. “With so much crude oil sloshing around the world, it’s only a matter of time before all that supply starts to bring down prices, but it may not happen until December.”