House Votes to Block

Review of 'Under God'

The House passed legislation yesterday to prevent the Supreme Court from ruling on whether the words "under God" should be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance.

In an emotional debate, Democrats said majority Republicans in the chamber are were debasing the Constitution to force a vote that could hurt Democrats in the Nov. 2 election.

Supporters said that Congress has always had authority to limit federal courts' jurisdiction, and that the legislation is needed to protect an affirmation of religion that is part of the national heritage.

The bill, which was passed 247 to 173, would prohibit federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from hearing cases involving the pledge and its recitation. It would also prevent federal courts from striking the words "under God" from the pledge.

The legislation has little chance in the Senate this year, but it laid down a marker for politicians seeking to differentiate themselves from their election opponents on volatile social issues. Other "wedge" issues that have or could come up before the election include same-sex marriage and flag burning.

Kessler Says Nicotine

Was Manipulated

The former head of the Food and Drug Administration came under cross-examination after testifying that cigarette makers manipulated nicotine to keep smokers addicted, a central allegation in the government's $280 billion lawsuit against the industry.

David Kessler, former FDA commissioner, appeared in U.S. District Court to answer questions from defense lawyers about his investigation of the industry in the 1990s.

The Justice Department alleges tobacco companies lied for years about whether nicotine was addictive, whether they manipulated nicotine and whether their products cause disease.

Brown and Williamson attorney David Bernick tried to paint Kessler as overzealous and eager for media attention when he characterized nicotine as a drug and set out to regulate cigarettes. Bernick quoted Kessler as talking about "goading Congress" and "circling the White House."

Kessler contended in written direct testimony previously filed with the court that the FDA investigation revealed that nicotine levels in cigarettes were controlled by the tobacco companies. He said they managed to keep nicotine levels up, even as they lowered tar levels, by blending different kinds of tobacco leaves.

Administration Sued

On Pesticide Rules

Environmental groups went to court against Bush administration rules that allow the use of new pesticides with fewer checks on how they affect endangered species.

The eight groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleging that the rule changes in July violated several environmental laws.

The changes let the Environmental Protection Agency review some pesticides without consulting experts in the Interior and Commerce departments.

Under the Endangered Species Act, the EPA is required to consult with the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service each time it licenses a new pesticide.

-- From News Services