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News Briefs

Toyota, Honda Deliver First U.S. Fuel-Cell Vehicles


The first low-pollution, hydrogen fuel-cell passenger vehicles in the United States hit the road in Southern California on Monday as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. handed the car keys to their partners in a pair of long-term research projects.

The automakers, which have launched similar programs in their home market of Japan, are hoping that their respective technologies become the industry standard as fuel-cell development progresses.

Representatives of both companies called the deliveries historic, but they cautioned that it will be decades before motorists can walk into a dealer’s showroom and drive away in one of the vehicles.

Analysts said the two programs should go a long way toward generating performance data that can help industry, government and the public better understand and perfect fuel-cell technology.

Justices to Look at Sodomy Laws Targeting Same-Sex Couples


The Supreme Court took up a potential landmark case for the gay-rights movement Monday, agreeing to decide whether the Constitution permits states to enforce anti-sodomy laws exclusively against same-sex couples.

Until now, the court has been wary of saying that discrimination against gays and lesbians violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws.”

If such discrimination is forbidden, it could affect state laws on adoptions, foster care, marriage and employment.

On Monday, the justices said they would hear an “equal protection” challenge to a Texas law that criminalizes “deviate sexual acts” between persons of the same sex.

Two Houston men, John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner, are appealing their convictions and $200 fines for violating the law. They were arrested in 1998 when sheriff’s deputies, responding to a false report of an armed intruder, found the two men having sex in Lawrence’s apartment.

Judge Delays Ruling In File-Swapping Case


A federal judge on Monday weighed arguments but postponed ruling in a contentious hearing over the fate of the popular Morpheus and Grokster file-swapping networks.

Both sides in the copyright-infringement lawsuit -- filed against the networks by Hollywood studios, major record labels and music publishers -- asked U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson to rule in the case that has emerged as a key legal fight in the post-Napster world.

Attorneys for movie studios and record labels asked that the companies behind Grokster and Morpheus be found guilty of massive copyright infringement. Representatives for Grokster Ltd. and Streamcast Networks Inc., which distributes the Morpheus file-swapping software, asked that the case be dismissed so they can grow their businesses.

The networks let users find and copy music and movies stored on each other’s computers, often in violation of copyright laws.

“I have to go and rethink” the case, Wilson told a packed courtroom, after listening to more than two hours of arguments.

Wilson proposed submitting a “speaking order” and requesting comments from both sides about specific questions within the order. The judge did not say when, or even if, he would issue such a document.