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News Briefs

Tension Mounting as NATO Begins Collecting Guns in Macedonia

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SKOPJE

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization collected its first batch of weapons from ethnic Albanian guerrillas Monday, even as it suffered its mission’s first fatality when a British soldier was killed in an attack by Macedonian youths.

The soldier, Ian Collins, 22, died early Monday after being hit by a heavy object -- possibly a block of concrete. Collins, who died on the first day of the alliance’s weapons-collection operation in Macedonia, became one of the few NATO soldiers to die in the Balkans in a hostile act.

The fatal attack occurred against an increasingly antagonistic backdrop for the NATO operation, which gathered roughly 400 weapons Monday from the guerrillas, who say they are fighting for more rights for the country’s sizable ethnic Albanian minority.

Instead of the cease-fire and diminution of hostilities that international officials had predicted would accompany the NATO deployment, the sense of tension and danger seemed to be on the rise. Three bombs have gone off in this capital city in the past 24 hours, and over the weekend two Macedonians were killed in the bombing of a popular country restaurant.

College Affirmative Action Program Is Dealt Setback by Appeals Court

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

A U.S. appeals court on Monday struck down the use of a “diversity bonus” for all nonwhite students applying to the University of Georgia, a ruling that appears to set the stage for a Supreme Court showdown on college affirmative action. The decision is the latest setback for college affirmative action programs, and it comes at a critical time.

“We assume that there is value in having a racially diverse student body,” the Atlanta-based judges said. But a policy of “mechanically awarding bonus points” to minority applicants violates the Constitution’s command that individuals be treated equally and without regard to their race, they said.

The ruling comes in the case of a state university that until 1961 closed its doors to all black students. But that history of racial discrimination against blacks does not justify a policy of “affirmative” discrimination in favor of minority students today, the appeals court said.

Fuel-Efficiency Measure Puts SUVs On Road to Tax Credits

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

In an unusual meeting of the minds, environmentalists and auto-industry representatives got together with lawmakers earlier this year and agreed on a new incentive to advance both of their causes: a tax credit for fuel-efficient “hybrid” cars.

The idea seemed like a winner.

Now, with legislation approved by the House and headed to the Senate, environmentalists say the industry has finagled the fine print to give the tax credit to the very epitome of excess: gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles.

The House bill would give motorists a tax break for buying hybrid gas-electric SUVs with mileage ratings as low as 18 miles per gallon. With the Senate expected to take up the issue soon, environmentalists are lobbying for an alternative measure that would promote cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles.