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News Briefs

For A Nation In Need Of A Plan, Russia Desires To Be Left Alone

The New York Times -- KOSTROMA, Russia

There is almost no sign of a presidential election campaign here in the Russian heartland, and apparently there is very little desire for one.

From shoemaker to shopkeeper to hunter to teacher, it seems that almost everyone is backing the incumbent president, Vladimir V. Putin.

One after another, in two days of interviews in this small city and in the nearby town of Susanino, cited the same reasons -- and one after another showed a remarkable lack of enthusiasm.

“At least he’s not making things worse,” said Lyuba Smirnova, 38, who sells cheap clothing at an outdoor market. “Before him, things were unpredictable. Now they are more stable. That’s the most important thing.”

Putin is not a colorful character, and if anything, that seems to be a plus for him. People say they admire him for his seriousness, sobriety, decisiveness and air of command.

Documents Show Shell Executives Knew Of Dip In Reserves In 2002

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

The new head of the Royal/Dutch Shell Group and its current chief financial officer, as well as the chairman ousted last week, were advised of huge shortfalls in proven oil and natural gas reserves in 2002, two years before they were publicly disclosed, according to company memorandums and notes of executive discussions.

But rather than disclose the problems to investors, senior executives in a July 2002 memorandum came up with -- and later carried out -- what it described as an “external storyline” and “investor relations script” that tried to “highlight major projects fueling growth,” “stress the strength” of existing resources, and minimize the significance of reserves as a measure of growth.

Problems with reserves were discussed among senior executives months earlier.

A February 2002 memorandum said that a billion barrels of reserves “are no longer fully aligned” with Securities and Exchange Commission rules because the agency had clarified them. The memorandum said that an additional 1.3 billion barrels of reserves were at risk because it was no longer certain that they could be extracted during the remaining term of licenses between the company and three foreign countries.

Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Boy Scouts’ Appeal

The Boston Globe -- WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for state and local governments to enforce gay-rights laws by barring the Boy Scouts of America from government benefits because of its ban on homosexual members or leaders.

The court had ruled four years ago that states or cities may not force the Scouts to admit gays into their ranks, but the youth organization had sought protection against what it considers indirect, official pressure to change its policy.

In an appeal the Supreme Court refused to hear, the Scouts argued that it is unconstitutional discrimination for Connecticut to exclude the organization from an annual charity fund-raising drive among state employees. The Scouts said the state was singling it out for official “punishment” based on its moral opposition to homosexuality.