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Copyright 2000 The Baltimore Sun Company
All Rights Reserved  
The Baltimore Sun

December 14, 2000 Thursday FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 827 words

In Washington

EEOC: Contraceptives belong in health plans like other preventives

It's against federal law for employers to exclude contraceptives from their health insurance plans when they cover other preventive treatments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said yesterday.

The decision directly affects only two women who complained to the commission, but it has implications for millions of others whose health insurance plans exclude birth control pills, diaphragms and other forms of prescription contraceptives.

The debate over contraceptive coverage burst into public when the male impotence drug Viagra came onto the market in April 1998. Women's groups argued that it was unfair that many insurance companies covered Viagra and did not cover birth control since both allow for sexual activity, albeit in different ways. In the Nation

NEAR's orbit brought within 22 miles of Eros

A 90-second engine firing yesterday afternoon successfully lowered NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft into an orbit just 22 miles above the surface of the asteroid Eros.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab said more orbit changes in January and February will bring the spacecraft to within two miles of Eros' surface in preparation for data-gathering at just 1,640 feet on Feb. 12, followed by a landing.

"The next two months will be the most challenging time of the entire mission," said mission director Robert W. Farquhar. NEAR was built at APL and launched in 1996. It has been orbiting Eros since February 2000.

Pushing man at train gets homeless man 25 years

NEW YORK - A homeless New Yorker convicted of pushing another man in front of a New York City subway train was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison.

Julio Perez, 44, was found guilty of attempted murder and assault in the April 28, 1999, incident that caused victim Edgar Rivera to lose both of his legs.

Perez, who has a long history of mental illness, had pleaded not guilty "by reason of mental disease or defect." But the jury in October rejected his claim and convicted him instead.

Hitting woman with brick to cost addict 25 years

NEW YORK - A crack addict with a long criminal record was sentenced to the maximum of 25 years in prison yesterday for bashing a woman in the head with a 6-pound paving brick.

Paris Drake, 37, was convicted last month of assault and criminal possession of a weapon for the attack on Nicole Barrett, 28, near Grand Central Terminal.

Barrett, who was on her way to a temporary job when attacked in 1999, has moved back to Texas. Bad weather kept her from attending Drake's sentencing, but in a statement she told her attacker that he was lucky she didn't die.

'Very dangerous' seven escape from Texas jail

KENEDY, Texas - Seven prisoners described as "armed and very dangerous" were on the loose yesterday after they escaped from a South Texas jail in a prison pickup truck, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman said.

The inmates were working on a maintenance crew when they overpowered several civilian workers and a guard, stole their clothes and weapons, then hopped in the truck and took off, the spokesman said.

The pickup truck was found abandoned in nearby Kenedy, about 50 miles southeast of San Antonio. Police were using dogs to search for the escapees.

Philadelphia reporters fined for withholding notes

PHILADELPHIA - A judge yesterday began fining reporters for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Tribune $100 per minute until they turn over their notes from an interview with a murder suspect or the prosecution rests its case.

The newspapers said they would pick up the tab for the two staffers and refused to release the notes. When the trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. today, each reporter will owe $129,000.

Common Pleas Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan ordered the fines to begin at noon yesterday. "I don't think even $10,000 a minute is going to get their compliance," she said. "I think it's a nominal fine for the newspaper, but it indicates that the court believes you should be complying."

'Worthless' Titanic pass brings a court award

TACOMA, Wash. - A man who sold a Titanic boarding pass he inherited to an antique dealer for $1,000, then saw it bring $100,000 at auction, has been awarded $18,700 from the profits.

A Pierce County Superior Court jury returned the verdict Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by Vern Westby, 72, of Parkland, against Alan Gorsuch of Sanford & Son Antiques in Tacoma. Gorsuch was ordered to pay a share of the auction profits to Westby.

Michael Schwartz, Westby's lawyer, said Gorsuch told Westby the pass was worthless and that it wouldn't bring in as much as $ 500. But Gorsuch, who said he planned to appeal, testified that it was Westby who set the $1,000 price and that he knew little about the value of Titanic memorabilia at the time.

LOAD-DATE: December 14, 2000

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