A U.S. District Court judge in Cincinnati...

LAST FALL,

March 09, 1996

LAST FALL, a U.S. District Court judge in Cincinnati shocked legal scholars by ordering Business Week magazine not to publish an article about a dispute involving two private firms. "Prior restraint," the legal term for the judge's action, is forbidden by the Constitution's strong endorsement of freedom of the press.

A panel of U.S. appellate judges cited a procedural technicality in refusing to over-rule the district court. Even Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens turned down the magazine's emergency request to intervene.

Now, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has lifted the order, pointing out that it was unconstitutional and should never have been entered. That ruling should ease fears raised by the perplexing decisions of last fall. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that putting restrictions on what newspapers can publish is a serious matter, not even justified in the case of most military and diplomatic secrets. For courts to allow this penalty in a case involving private commerce would have been a truly dangerous departure from this country's most cherished beliefs about censorship and the free flow of information.

THE $500,000 jellyfish exhibit at the National Aquarium will teach visitors a lot about these creatures, beyond the fact they sometimes keep folks from enjoying a dip on a summer's day. But the show, which will run two years here, also is a lesson for Maryland's growing tourism industry.

The exhibit is part of a revolving series of shows and other changes that are planned over the next decade at the aquarium. While the aquarium is touted as the largest paid tourist attraction Maryland, its officials seem very cognizant that attractions can't stand on their laurels if they are to gain repeat traffic, especially from area residents. The Rouse Co. understands this too, as it has talked about the need to remake Harborplace after 15 years.

The aquarium cannot build a shark tank every year. But this smaller attraction, with its "New Age" mood music and tanks of hundreds of jellies swirling like snowflakes, might get turnstiles clicking. As the state looks to invest more to fulfill the great potential of Maryland's hospitality trade, this exhibit is a reminder that while jellyfish can drift ceaselessly, tourism industries can't.

HOOTIE for president? Hootie & the Blowfish, the rock 'n roll band which just won a Grammy Award, isn't on the ballot, but perhaps deserves a write-in. In a world of divisive rhetoric, race-baiting and harmful song lyrics, this band with its wholesome image, composed of a black lead vocalist and three whites, sold 11 million records in 1994-95. Its music has amazingly broad appeal. It bridges the generation gap.

The quartet began as a bar band of University of South Carolina students, but there's a Maryland connection: Two members grew up in Gaithersburg and the group returned to College Park last year to film a music video for one of its hits. If the Free State can lay some claim to Babe Ruth, Edgar Allan Poe, Billie Holiday and others born here or who passed through, why not Hootie?

Pub Date: 3/09/96

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