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News briefs, part 2

Three Cultists May Leave Compound

The Washington Post


The FBI said Thursday that Branch Davidian leader David Koresh has agreed to allow three male followers to leave the fortified compound where they have been under siege for 12 days.

There was no indication Thursday night whether the men will actually leave, but the possibility of the first departures from the compound in a week suggested that negotiations between federal authorities and Koresh and his followers are making some progress. "It will be a backward step if in fact they do not come out," FBI spokesman Dick Swensen said at a briefing Thursday morning.

Since the standoff between the sect and the hundreds of law enforcement officials outside Ranch Apocalypse began, 21 children and two adults have been allowed to depart, leaving behind 90 adults and 17 children.

Federal negotiators have not talked directly to Koresh since 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Swensen. Instead, they have been negotiating with Steve Schneider, a follower who has emerged as Koresh's second in command. It was Schneider, Swensen said, who told negotiators in talks that went on until 1 a.m. Thursday that Koresh had agreed to the departure of the three men after talking with them.

The increasing role of Schneider has prompted speculation that Koresh is losing control over his followers. Authorities have tended to dismiss that possibility.

"When he entered the compound, he willingly gave up his wife to Mr. Koresh," FBI spokesman Bob Ricks said this week of Schneider. "That takes a lot of dedication."

The explanation for Koresh's absence from the talks is that he has a severe headache. But FBI officials said they believe Koresh was injured in the Feb. 28 raid on the compound that resulted in the deaths of four ATF agents and an unknown number of cult members.

Swensen said Thursday, however, that there is no reason to believe Koresh is dying or incapacitated or that he is totally removed from the negotiations. "He's still remotely or indirectly involved."

King Testimony Crystalizes Black Complaints That They Are Victims

The Washington Post


Whatever its impact on the civil-rights trial of three Los Angeles police officers and a former officer, Rodney G. King's dramatic testimony about his beating has crystalized complaints by blacks that they are persistent victims of police discrimination here.

Several blacks arrived at 5:30 a.m. to wait in line for one of 14 public seats available in the federal courtroom where King testified this week about his brutal beating after a high-speed pursuit March 3, 1991. Many of them said King was beaten because he is black.

"This is the first time the court system has allowed the interjection of race," said Joyce Harris, 47, of nearby Compton. "But all along, the black community has waited. We've been waiting since Simi Valley for this to be brought up."

Suburban Simi Valley was the site of acquittal verdicts on 10 of 11 state criminal charges against the officers last year. They are being tried now on federal charges.

King testified Tuesday that some of the officers had called him "nigger" as he was beaten. But he modified that under cross-examination Wednesday, saying he was not sure whether the word used was "nigger" or "killer."

His accusation of racial slurs continued to reverberate Thursday as attorney Harland W. Braun, who represents officer Theodore J. Briseno, asked U.S. District Judge John G. Davies to order the word "nigger" stricken from the trial record. He also sought censure of prosecutors for judicial misconduct on grounds that they withheld the accusation from the defense.

"I see no misconduct, absolutely none," Davies said. "The government turned over all of Mr. King's statements in a timely fashion. Mr. King was impeached on that issue. I really can't see how the defendants can complain."

Braun said racial accusations are particularly inflammatory here as police continue to engage in intense tactical training in case further rioting erupts. He said a helicopter awaits atop the court building to evacuate trial participants, if necessary after a verdict, but U.S. marshals here said they knew of no such plan.

Scandal Probes Alarm Japanese Politicians

The Washington Post


The tax-evasion scandal involving former political kingmaker Shin Kanemaru and his secret stash of cash and stocks, said to be worth millions, has sparked renewed outrage among Japanese voters. But in the political world it is producing a different emotion: raw fear.

All over Nagatacho, Tokyo's version of Capitol Hill, party leaders and members of the national parliament were waiting tensely Thursday to see who might get investigated next for accumulating large amounts of unreported income.

"One thing everybody knows: This problem is not limited to Kanemaru alone," said Takayoshi Miyagawa, a prominent political consultant with close ties to the dominant Liberal Democratic Party. "As politicans get influence in the party, they get many chances to take in money which they never report."

"Most of the politicians report only their official salary" on tax returns, investigative journalist Takashi Tachibana wrote. That would be about $200,000 a year for a member of the lower house of the parliament. "But it would be impossible for them to accumulate the wealth they have if that were their only income."

Kanemaru, 78, who had been the chief power broker of the dominant party, lost his seat in parliament and his considerable clout due to a separate political funding scandal last fall. He was jailed Saturday on charges of evading taxes on secret income.After years of scandal on top of scandal, people here were already severely disillusioned with politics. The tax evasion case -- coming just before the Japanese income tax filing deadline next Monday -- has clearly increased the national sense of disgust.