Calif. man wants courtto enforce pledge ruling
SAN FRANCISCO -- The California father who persuaded a federal court to declare it unconstitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school asked Friday that the ruling be enforced, regardless of appeals.
Michael Newdow challenged the pledge on grounds that his daughter should not be subjected to the term under God in public classrooms. His motion Friday responded to the court's June 27 ruling to put the decision on hold to allow for appeals.
Sandra Banning, the 8-year-old girl's mother, along with the school district and the federal and state governments, have filed briefs urging the judges to reverse themselves.
Banning, who has full custody of the child, is urging the appeals court to consider whether Newdow had legal standing to bring the case.
Newdow, a Sacramento atheist, told the court Friday he hasn't lost his legal status as a father just because he doesn't have custody, and said Banning had no right to delay enforcement of the ruling.
"Banning, if she feels it necessary, can certainly file her own lawsuit to have the words under God kept in the Pledge of Allegiance," he wrote. "In this action, however, she has no role to play."
The decision would have stopped public schoolchildren from reciting the pledge in the nine western states that the nation's largest appeals court covers -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Ford agrees to modify350,000 police cars
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ford Motor Co. agreed Friday to install shields around the gas tanks on 350,000 Crown Victoria police cars across the country after at least a dozen officers were killed in fiery crashes.
Ford agreed to pay for the modifications and study ways to make the cars safer after police departments said the vehicles are prone to burst into flames in high-speed, rear-end crashes.
Approximately 80 percent of police cars on the road in the United States are Ford Crown Victorias.
Sue Cischke, vice president of safety engineering for Ford, said the automaker was responding to concerns raised by police nationwide. But she maintained the Crown Victoria is safe.
"We're trying to make a safe car safer," Cischke said.
Shields made of plastic and rubber will be installed on the rear axle, the differential and underneath the gas tanks.
Panel rejects appealof dwarf-tossing ban
GENEVA -- A United Nations committee rejected a Frenchman's appeal of his country's ban on dwarf tossing on the grounds it violated his human rights.
The 18-member U.N. Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of a 1976 treaty on civil and political rights, backed the French government contention that the law against dwarf tossing was necessary to protect human dignity and public order.
Manuel Wackenheim -- a 3-foot-10-inch stuntman known as "Mr. Skyman" -- said he was a victim of discrimination and that French authorities were violating his personal freedom, failing to respect his privacy and preventing him from making a living.
The real basis of human dignity, he had said, was being able to work, adding that jobs for dwarves were scarce in France.
"The ban applies only to dwarves," the committee said in announcing its ruling Friday. "The reason simply is that they are the only individuals likely to be tossed.
"The distinction between those to whom the ban applies and those who are excluded ... is based on an objective judgment and is not discriminatory."
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Former Miss Universe Oxana Fedorova repeated Friday her contention that she gave up the crown and wasn't fired.
Pageant organizers, who say Fedorova didn't step down willingly, replaced her earlier this week for not showing up at some photo shoots and charity events.
Fedorova said at a news conference that she got her first inkling that she should step down when she was asked uncomfortable questions by radio host Howard Stern, whose program is marked by sexual content.
"Nobody warned me about the kind of questions I would be asked," the Russian said.
Fedorova did not specify the questions that disturbed her, but the newspaper Komosmolskaya Pravda said Stern asked her in detail about her sexual preferences.
She said the interview and lack of any warning influenced her decision to step down.