Sun News Digest

SUN NEWS DIGEST

February 17, 2005

NATIONAL

House approves FCC fines bill

Brushing aside warnings about stifling free speech, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation yesterday that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to fine broadcasters and entertainers up to $500,000 -- far above the current ceilings $32,500 for a company and $11,000 for an individual -- for airing sexually explicit and overly vulgar material. [Page 1a]

FDA hearings look at painkillers

Merck scientists who originally said they took their blockbuster arthritis drug Vioxx off the market last year because similar drugs were available that were not linked to heart problems, as their product was, said yesterday at Food and Drug Administration hearings that they now believe the entire class of drugs, called Cox-2 inhibitors, increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. [Page 3a]

WORLD

Syria denounced in Lebanon

Thousands of mourners denouncing Syria marched through Beirut, Lebanon for the burial of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria said yesterday that it would seek a more formal alliance with Iran in response to international accusations that it was connected to the killing. [Page 18a]

Gaza Strip plan approved

After two days of debates, Israel's parliament approved last night Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to remove Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. [Page 20a]

MARYLAND

Deliberations in Blackwell case

Jurors deliberated for more than five hours yesterday in the case of Maurice Blackwell, the defrocked Baltimore priest accused of molesting Dontee Stokes more than a decade ago. Jurors sent a note to the judge saying they were unable to agree on a verdict but were instructed to return to court this morning to continue their efforts. [Page 1b]

Pushing for lead paint measures

Dozens of Baltimore residents and community leaders urged state lawmakers in Annapolis yesterday to support tougher enforcement and increased funding to combat lead paint poisoning, instead of legislation they criticized as being riddled with loopholes for landlords. [Page 2b]

SPORTS

NHL cancels season

The National Hockey League became the first major professional league to lose its entire season to a labor dispute when commissioner Gary Bettman announced the cancellation of the remainder of its 1,230-game schedule. Bettman's announcement came on the 154th day of a lockout imposed by the league, which said it could not function under its current business model. [Page 1a]

N.C. State sweeps Terps

Ilian Evtimov and Tony Bethel each scored 17 points to lift North Carolina State to an 82-63 victory over No. 22 Maryland, which was coming off an overtime win over Duke. The win gives N.C. State its first regular-season sweep of the Terrapins since the 1988-89 season. [Page 1c]

A biography revised

A public relations firm representing prospective Minnesota Vikings owner Reggie Fowler issued a revised "fact sheet" on Fowler after questions were raised about the accuracy of an official biography. Fowler's original bio claimed he played in the NFL and CFL and in the Little League World Series as an 11-year-old, and implied that he earned a business administration and finance degree from the University of Wyoming. The Star Tribune reported yesterday that the claims were incorrect or overstated. [Page 3c]

BUSINESS

Mutual funds seller is accused

American Funds, the biggest U.S. seller of mutual funds since 2002, violated securities rules by paying brokerages $100 million in commissions over three years in exchange for promoting its products, the NASD said yesterday. [Page 1d]

TV-like videos for cell phones

Verizon Wireless has rolled out its V Cast service, enabling subscribers to get news, sports and entertainment via televisionlike videos on their cell phone screens. [Page 1d]

Medicaid proposal complaints

Proposed Medicaid spending restraints could force staffing reductions at nursing homes and make it more difficult for parents to care for severely ill or disabled children, families of patients and health care providers complained at a budget hearing in Annapolis yesterday. [Page 1d]

TODAY

Ray Lewis tackles food

Ray Lewis' Full Moon Bar-B-Que officially opens Sunday, but Ravens' No. 52 and his mother, Sunseria Smith, showed the new restaurant to members of the news media yesterday. [Page 1e]

Celebrity bridal designer in town

This week, Monique Lhuillier's talent train makes a stop in Baltimore, and local brides will have the chance to be outfitted by the bridal gown designer who dressed Britney Spears and Kevin Costner's wife. [Page 1e]

Railroad museum draws crowds

In the three months since the B&O Railroad Museum in West Baltimore opened after restoring its snowstorm-damaged roundhouse, 53,400 paying visitors have come through its doors. That's nearly half the 120,000 visitors the museum typically draws in a year. [Page 1e]

TODAY ONLINE

BLACKWELL CASE

Jury deliberations continue this morning in the sexual child abuse trial of former priest Maurice Blackwell. For developments and archived coverage of the case, go to www.baltimoresun.com/blackwell

LIVE! ONLINE

Check out the online version of our weekly entertainment and events section at www.baltimoresun.com/live

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The Americans swagger like a tiger around the world, but they whimper before our republic as the tiger does before the porcupine. That's because we have our great leader, Kim Jong Il, who is undefeatable."

Pyongyang Radio, marking Kim's 63rd birthday (Article, Page 19A)

MARKETS

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10,834.88

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-1.78

2,087.43

S&P -- UP

+0.22

1,210.34

SUNINDEX -- DOWN

-0.35

308.73

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