Tobacco Suit Nears Completion

MIAMI -- Tobacco companies have worked for years to make their products safe by lowering tar and nicotine, an industry lawyer said yesterday during closing arguments in the first class action lawsuit by smokers to reach trial.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. attorney Benjamin Reid said levels of tar and nicotine in all brands of cigarettes have been reduced 68 percent since 1954.

Lawyers for 500,000 sick Florida smokers or their survivors are seeking at least $200 billion from Philip Morris Cos., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and other cigarette makers and industry groups.

Lawyers for the sick smokers will make closing arguments today, and the jury should get the case Monday.

Man Indicted in Abortion Slaying

BUFFALO -- A county grand jury indicted James Kopp in the slaying of the abortion provider who was gunned down through his kitchen window.

The three-count indictment charges Kopp with the second-degree murder of Barnett Slepian, first-degree reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon. Conviction on the second-degree murder charge could mean life in prison for Kopp.

Addenda

ROCKFORD, Ala. -- One of two men accused of beating a gay man to death with an ax handle for allegedly making a pass at them pleaded guilty to murder in hopes of avoiding the electric chair. District Attorney Fred Thompson said that in return for the guilty plea, he will recommend life without parole for Steven Eric Mullins, 25, in the slaying of Billy Jack Gaither, 39.

CAPE CANAVERAL -- A NASA ultraviolet telescope rocketed into orbit on a three-year quest to learn what the universe was like moments after creation. The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer will measure the abundance of deuterium, a heavy hydrogen created in the Big Bang 12 billion or more years ago, to help astronomers determine the original makeup of the universe.

MIAMI -- Cubans living in Miami filed a billion-dollar lawsuit in Florida state court against 24 companies claiming that they mistreat Cuban tourism workers and deny Cuban residents access to resorts on the Caribbean island.

SAN FRANCISCO -- A 71-year-old woman who drove home on an expired license after flunking her driver's test struck and killed a baby in a stroller hours later, police said. The woman, who has not been charged, said her car's brakes failed before she hit 10-month-old Yusuf Khouja, who was killed, and his 2 1/2-year-old brother, who had minor injuries.

CHARLOTTE -- Four people were found dead at a town house complex, apparently overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from a car left running in an attached garage. The dead included a man and a woman in a three-story town house where the car was running and another couple in an adjacent town house, police said.