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News Briefs

In Hollywood, Cautious Optimism over Labor Talks


Meeting through the weekend and all day Monday ahead of a looming deadline, negotiators in Hollywood appeared to inch toward settling a labor dispute that threatens to idle much of the entertainment industry.

After months of dread and panic, there was increasing optimism that the studios and the Writers Guild of America would strike a deal before 12:01 a.m. PDT Wednesday, when the current contract setting salaries and working conditions for movie and television writers expires.

But there was little clear evidence to support the sunnier view, since neither the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, nor the labor union has officially spoken to the media since talks resumed April 17.

The two sides have been arguing mainly over money; specifically, the level of residual payments that writers earn for work that appears in secondary outlets like cable, video, DVD and foreign markets. They’re also arguing over limiting the use of the prestigious “a film by” credit for directors.

Britain Moves to Ban Insurance Gene Tests


Britain’s government has tentatively endorsed a ban on genetic testing by insurance companies, hoping to prevent the emergence of a “genetic underclass” of people unable to buy health or life insurance.

The new policy would mean huge savings, in money and peace of mind, for people such as Caroline Lisher, 41, an executive in the London suburbs. After tests showed she had a gene associated with breast cancer, she was unable to buy life insurance. That, in turn, led to heavy additional expense when Lisher bought a home in 1995.

She wanted to take out a so-called endowment mortgage, a common formulation here in which the mortgage is backed by life insurance. But since the genetic evidence made her ineligible for insurance, she had to accept a more-expensive loan.

Laying out the government’s first comprehensive policy on the genetics revolution, Alan Milburn, the health minister in Tony Blair’s cabinet, said recently he would support a moratorium on the use of gene tests by insurance companies if a commission recommends it. The government’s Human Genetics Commission is due to issue a report in May and industry observers are predicting it will call for such a ban.

Ex-Klansman’s Defense Ends in Church Bombing


The defense of former Ku Klux Klansman Thomas Blanton Jr. began and ended Monday with only two witnesses, as his attorney tried to persuade the jury that other white supremacists could have planted the bomb that killed four black girls in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963.

“We were trying to show there were other leads,” said defense attorney John Robbins, outside the courtroom.

Blanton, 62, who did not take the stand, faces four counts of murder in the case that stands as an emblem of the 1960s civil rights movement and an enduring shame to this city, where it occurred. The victims -- Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, all 14, and Denise McNair, 11 -- were killed in the church basement as they prepared for Sunday-morning services.

The case is expected to go to the jury Tuesday.