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News Briefs

U.S. Developing Post-Castro Contingency Plans

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Bush administration, convinced that Fidel Castro’s regime could collapse at any time, has begun developing plans to help Cuba manage a change in government and nudge the aging president’s successor toward a U.S.-style system.

Administration officials say they are trying to chart how they would react if the Cuban leader’s death, for example, opened the way for a leadership more sympathetic to the United States. And they are considering what they would do if it set off a mass migration toward Florida that the United States would have to head off.

From President Bush down, the administration “has come to a realization that we need to be more vigorous in thinking through what we would do in any number of contingencies,” said a senior administration official who asked to remain unidentified. “We have a number of interests in play.”

Many analysts say the government that succeeds Castro might permit additional limited free enterprise -- perhaps focusing on small businesses -- as a way of turning around the impoverished island’s economy. But many also believe that it would resist political reform.

Jet Gets Military Escort After ‘Misunderstanding’

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Two F-16 fighter jets escorted a US Airways jet to Baltimore-Washington International Airport Tuesday after a “misunderstanding” between the pilot and air traffic controllers over whether the plane had been hijacked, airline and airport officials said.

US Airways spokesman David Castelveter wouldn’t comment on what the pilot said that caused air traffic controllers concern, saying that to do so would reveal airline security procedures.

“It was a misunderstanding by the controllers over what our pilot in the cockpit said,” Castelveter said. “They were worried about a potential security threat.”

Flight 1814 had left Charlotte shortly after 8 a.m. with 44 passengers and was scheduled to land at BWI about 9:35 a.m. At 9:12 a.m., the two F-16s were launched from Andrews Air Force Base and intercepted the airliner in “very short order,” said Air Force Maj. Ed Thomas, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado.

Reno Schools Settle Gay-Rights Suit

LOS ANGELES TIMES

School authorities in Reno, Nev., agreed Tuesday to a wide-ranging settlement of a gay-rights lawsuit, instituting a stringent anti-harassment policy and paying $451,000 to a gay youth who was driven from local schools.

The settlement is “the first in the country to recognize the constitutional right of gay and lesbian youth to be open about their sexual orientation in schools and to be protected from discrimination and harassment by other students,” according to lawyers for the youth, Derek R. Henkle.

A spokesman for the Washoe County, Nev., School District, agreed, saying the district’s new policy allows gay students to speak out and prohibits harassment that creates “an intimidating, hostile or offensive school environment.”

The policy grants gays, as others, freedom of expression to take part in student activities, voice their opinions in school publications, enter election campaigns and participate in student clubs. It prohibits anyone from taking actions that “cause a substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities” or are “vulgar, lewd, obscene or plainly offensive.”