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News Briefs

Police Officer Who Beat King Seeks Reinstatement

Los Angeles Times


On the surface, Officer Theodore J. Briseno's long-awaited Los Angeles Police Department disciplinary hearing appears to probe a single, simple question: Did he use excessive force when he stomped or pushed black motorist Rodney G. King to the pavement on March 3, 1991?

Briseno's hearing, postponed for more than two years while he has gone on trial twice for his actions, will likely delve into questions that are far more complicated and politically charged.

Did Briseno lie when he testified in California state court that he tried to stop his police colleagues from beating King after King led them on a high-speed chase? Did he make up a story about returning to the police station to report the force? And, most controversially, is the LAPD trying to strip Briseno of his job not because he used force on King but because he violated the police "code of silence" when he turned on his fellow officers in Simi Valley?

As those questions suggest, Briseno's case has long been the most complicated to arise from the beating that shook the city's police department, ultimately led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots and forged a national debate on the use of force by police officers. Ironically, Briseno's case is so difficult largely because the infamous videotape of the beating shows him doing relatively little, and what he does is subject to widely different interpretations.

In essence, Briseno makes two appearances on the tape, at one point blocking Officer Laurence M. Powell and later stepping down hard on King's back or neck. Between those moments, he can be seen on the periphery of the incident, but he otherwise is outside the center of the fray.

New Defense Policy Review Promotes Status Quo, Some Say

Los Angeles Times


President Clinton has given final approval to a major review of U.S. defense policy, but officials say it is likely to recommend only modest changes in current military programs, despite Clinton's campaign calls for a major overhaul of Pentagon strategy.

The long-awaited report, undertaken by Defense Secretary Les Aspin and known as the "bottom-up review," is intended to set forth the administration's overall defense strategy and long-range military spending plans for the post-Cold War world.

But indications are that despite five months in the making, the plan -- scheduled to be made public Wednesday -- will be remarkably similar to the defense policy and force structure enunciated by the Bush administration, which Clinton criticized during the campaign.

Indeed, U.S. officials project that the changes the Pentagon is proposing actually will require the administration to spend about $2.8 billion a year, or $14 billion over five years, more than Clinton's current military spending plan -- a modest but significant increase.

Military experts say the recommendations reflect a growing feeling within the administration that the United States must maintain a strong U.S. military presence abroad -- a development that stems from its frustrating experiences with Bosnia, Somalia and North Korea.

Justice Department Going After Computer Child Pornography

Los Angeles Times


Federal obscenity hunters, who believed they had made strides in curbing the distribution of child pornography through the mail and other traditional methods, said Tuesday they are now combatting a new version of the problem: lewd material generated and distributed by computer from Denmark and elsewhere.

"We're right back, unfortunately, where we started," said J. Robert Flores, senior trial attorney in the Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section. "Much of the material is again surfacing in computers."

So far, federal prosecutors have filed child pornography charges against six people and as many as nine more cases may be brought this month, said George Burgasser, acting chief of the section. The charges are based largely on information obtained by U.S. Customs Service agents during 31 searches in 15 states and 30 cities in March.

The current effort began with a May 1992 search of a Danish citizen's home by Danish police that resulted in the seizure of a computer system, records and hundreds of pornographic photographs of children.

Customs agents estimated that 45 Americans were importing child pornography through the two systems. That conclusion led to the March raids, dubbed "Operation Long Arm" and characterized by Burgasser as "the largest anti-child pornography operation in U.S. history."

The Justice Department also hoped to "serve notice that it will not allow trade" in child pornography, "regardless of whether it is by conventional or high-tech methods," he said.

Jackson Undergoes Brain Scan, Is Deemed Fit to Tour

Los Angeles Times


Pop star Michael Jackson underwent a brain scan Tuesday after canceling a concert because of a migraine headache. His doctor said Jackson was fit and would resume his concert tour.

Jackson appeared animated Tuesday as he joked and waved to fans waiting outside his hotel. He was taken to Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital for the magnetic resonance imaging scan, which provides views of the brain in three dimensions.

David Forecast, Jackson's British doctor, said the singer's scan was "entirely normal." He said a local consulting neurologist concurred with his diagnosis of "late onset migraine."

Jackson's concert before 45,000 people in Singapore was abruptly canceled Monday night. The singer appeared visibly in pain and had to be supported under the arms when he returned to the Raffles Hotel.

In a recorded message played at a news conference, Jackson said he was "suddenly taken ill" and apologized for disappointing his fans.