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News Briefs

India’s Leading Hindu Party Makes Gains in Elections

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- NEW DELHI, INDIA

The Hindu nationalist party that leads India’s coalition government decisively won three of four key state elections held on Monday, according to vote totals that were counted Thursday.

The results, seen as a prelude to the general elections to be held next year, were an unexpected boon for the Bharatiya Janata Party. They also provided another in a series of blows to the once-proud Indian National Congress, whose incumbent governments lost in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. The Congress Party, the base of the Nehru-Gandhi family dynasty, retained control only of Delhi.

Indian voters are strongly anti-incumbent, so in one sense the turning out of the Congress Party was no surprise. But few expected it to lose by such substantial margins. In Rajasthan, home to about 57 million people, the Bharatiya Janata Party won 120 seats to the Congress Party’s 56. In Madhya Pradesh, home to 60 million people, Bharatiya Janata won 174 seats to Congress’ 37.

Appeals Court Voids Part Of Widely Applied Antiterror Law

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that key portions of an antiterrorism law are unconstitutional because the law, relied on heavily by the Bush administration, risks ensnaring innocent humanitarians.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, throws into doubt the administration’s reliance on portions of a 1996 antiterrorism law making it a crime to provide material support to groups designated as terrorists.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the material support ban has become a favorite weapon of choice for the Justice Department in a host of terrorism cases, including the prosecutions of John Walker Lindh, an American who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan; Lynne Stewart, the defense attorney accused of helping a client pass messages to terrorist associates; and terror suspects in Lackawanna, N.Y.; Portland, Ore., and Detroit.

But the famously liberal 9th Circuit ruled that two key portions of the law were unconstitutional.

Automakers Agree to Make SUVs Sold in U.S. Safer

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- DETROIT

The auto industry, which for years has disputed critics’ contentions that sport utility vehicles posed a significant danger to other vehicles in collisions, agreed Wednesday to make design changes to SUVs and pickups sold in the United States so they are less dangerous to the occupants of passenger cars.

Fifteen automakers from four nations agreed to redesign their light trucks, mostly SUVs and pickups, to reduce the likelihood that they would skip over the front bumpers of cars in collisions. They also agreed to increase protection of passengers in vehicles struck in the side, most likely by making side airbags standard equipment in vehicles sold in the United States. The changes like the airbags, which protect people’s heads if their vehicles are struck in the side, are particularly aimed at helping passenger car occupants survive when struck by light trucks.

The changes, which will cost about $300 a vehicle and be phased in between 2007 and 2009, will probably save thousands of lives annually, according to projections included in a letter released Wednesday.