Suit Challenges the Way Boston Assigns Students

BOSTON -- Ten families went to federal court yesterday in a lawsuit over the way students are assigned to Boston public schools, saying race is still a consideration.

The policy reserves half the seats in elementary and middle schools for children who live within the schools' "walk zones," and half for children from other neighborhoods.

The families said the school district still considers race in placing students in certain schools. School officials said the system is race-neutral, incorporating parents' desire to send their children to nearby schools and their wish to choose from schools in other parts of the city.

School Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant has said a return to all-neighborhood schools could reduce parental options because children would be forced to attend their closest school. In addition, some parents would have as many as 10 schools within walking distance, while others would have two or three.

* NEW YORK -- A New Mexico man who was hospitalized in New York City for more than three months with bubonic plague left the hospital to fly home, a spokesman said. John Tull, whose feet were amputated due to extensive tissue damage, and his wife, Lucinda Marker, contracted plague from infected fleas on their ranch and became ill after arriving in New York on Nov. 1.

* The New England Journal of Medicine retracted an article on a heart treatment because one author had forged others' signatures on statements attesting that they had reviewed the data and the manuscript. The Oct. 24 article was about using a controlled heart attack to shrink the heart's central wall when it has become so thick and stiff that it keeps blood from flowing easily. This type of heart enlargement has contributed to sudden death in athletes and young people, and journal officials said the procedure appears to be useful in selected patients.

* SEATTLE -- The American Bar Association denounced the classification of certain U.S. terrorism suspects as "enemy combatants," which has allowed the government to hold them indefinitely and block access to lawyers and courts. The ABA policy concerns only American citizens and "U.S. residents," which the group said would include illegal immigrants. Two people are known to fall into the category; the vast majority of enemy combatants are foreigners being held at a U.S. military base in Cuba.

* NEW YORK -- Citing safety concerns in "this time of heightened security," U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones upheld the city's refusal to allow antiwar demonstrators to march past the United Nations on Saturday.

* CHICAGO -- An aide to former governor George Ryan testified that he directed the shredding of documents at state offices when Ryan was secretary of state, then called his boss to tell him it was "all cleaned up." William Mack, Ryan's scheduler when he was secretary of state, testified for a second day at the racketeering trial of Ryan's campaign committee and his former chief of staff, Scott Fawell. Fawell and the committee are charged with diverting state workers and resources to the campaigns of Ryan and his allies going back to the early 1990s. Ryan has not been charged.

-- From News Services