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Bill Lan Lee Honored[IMGCAP(1)]Bill Lann Lee, left, was honored yesterday by student groups at the University of Maryland School of Law. Lee is the first Asian American to be appointed assistant attorney general for civil rights, the top civil rights job in the federal government — an appointment that was held up in Congress for more than two years. He is shown shaking hands with Dean Karen Rothenberg, as students Tonia Smith and Rudhir Patel look on. Yesterday’s reception was sponsored by the Asian/Pacific-American Law Students Association, the Black Law Students Association, Latino Law Students Association and the Student Bar Association.

Federal Report Finds Children Safer at SchoolDespite recent headline-making occurrences of school violence, the number of such incidents is falling, and children are more likely to be hurt off-campus, the U.S. government reported yesterday. “America’s schools are safe places,’’ said Attorney General Janet Reno, releasing the report by the Education and Justice departments. It said schoolchildren are twice as likely to be victims of serious violent crime away from school. In the 1997-98 school year, 42 of the 3,000 children who were murdered or committed suicide, or 1.4 percent, died at school, the report said. In the same year, 253,000 students ages 12 to 18 were victims of serious crimes such as rape and robbery at school, compared with 550,000 children who were victims of such crimes away from school. The report uses information drawn from a variety of government statistics, and much of the information had been reported piecemeal in earlier studies. Worries about school violence were raised anew just this week with an incident Tuesday at Pioneer Elementary School in Glendale, Ariz. Nobody was hurt or killed when a 14-year-old boy carried a loaded 9 mm handgun into his former school and began a standoff in a classroom full of seventh- and eighth-graders that lasted about an hour.

Federal Monitors Approved for Cicero ElectionsFederal examiners have been authorized to monitor elections in suburban Cicero, Ill., for the next five years under a settlement between the federal government and Cook County officials. Wednesday’s consent decree settles a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in March after Cicero officials tried to hold a referendum on raising the residency requirement for town government candidates from 12 months to 18 months. The department claimed that the plan was designed to keep Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno and Victor P. Armendariz — both Hispanics — from running for town president Betty Loren-Maltese’s position. Moreno and Armendariz are candidates in the Feb. 27 Democratic primary in the suburb just west of the Chicago city limits. Cicero’s Latino population has grown substantially in recent years. The winner will face Loren-Maltese, a Republican, in the April 3 general election. Raising the residency requirement would have knocked out both Moreno and Armendariz, authorities said. U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle called off the referendum in response to the lawsuit. The Justice Department contended that concern among town officials over the growth of the community’s Latino population to about 60 percent prompted them to call the referendum “in an undisguised effort to exclude those individuals from the 2001 election.’’

Pa. Senator Hid Fees From Private Tax CollectorA veteran Pennsylvania state senator has agreed to resign from the legislature amid allegations he falsified documents to conceal more than $330,000 in consulting fees paid to him by a private firm. Prosecutors said Senate Majority Leader F. Joseph Loeper’s relationship with the Municipal Tax Bureau, which collects taxes on behalf of governments for a fee, did not violate federal law but the manner in which he tried to hide it was illegal. Loeper, 55, who has been in the Senate for 22 years, was charged Tuesday with one count of endeavoring to obstruct the administration of federal tax laws.

Pumpkin Theft Leaves Family BereftThe Harnicas’ missing pumpkin is the worst sort of Halloween prank. Someone swiped a homegrown 315-pound pumpkin from the Michigan family while the Harnicas left their farm for about 20 minutes. “Whoever took it had to come prepared to take it,’’ John Harnica said. “It’s too big just to walk away with.’’ The pumpkin, the largest the family of six has grown, was entered in the Oct. 7 national pumpkin weigh-off contest. The winning pumpkin was 791 pounds. “It was special,’’ Harnica said. “We’re pretty upset about it. The kids put a lot of time and effort into it.’’