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China to Conduct Just A Few More' Nuclear Tests

Los Angeles Times

China plans to conduct "a few more" underground nuclear tests during the next two years, or at least until an international test ban treaty is reached, a senior official in the foreign ministry said Thursday.

The official, who has an extensive background in arms-control negotiations, also said that China is interested in pursuing a proposal by U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry that it substitute computer simulation for nuclear tests. However, he said, the computer simulation procedure, while an attractive idea among the five major nuclear powers, faced likely opposition from non-nuclear countries who view it as another form of nuclear proliferation.

Perry, who visited China earlier this week, said in a news conference Tuesday that he had discussed with senior Chinese officials "ways of eliminating the need for testing (that) had to do with computer simulation techniques."

The American defense secretary set as one of the objectives of his four-day visit, which ended Wednesday, to dissuade the Chinese from further nuclear testing.

Since Oct. 5 of last year, the Chinese have conducted three underground nuclear tests, breaking a moratorium observed by the four other major nuclear powers - the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia. The most recent blast, estimated at between 40 and 150 kilotons, took place at China's remote Lop Nor testing ground in Xinjiang Province on Oct. 6.

Judge Limits Media Access To Simpson Jury Selection

Los Angeles Times

After days of debating how to protect prospective jurors from publicity about the O.J. Simpson murder case, Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito elected Thursday to shut down some public access to jury selection, a move that drew immediate criticism from civil libertarians and legal experts.

Following Ito's decision, the judge joined defense attorneys and prosecutors behind closed doors and continued the questioning of prospective jururs, interviewing 18 and excusing six of them. Ito refused to release transcripts of the closed session Thursday, though he left open the possiblity that news organizations could renew their requests for the documents.

According to a court spokeswoman, Ito said he only meant to exclude the press and public from individual questioning of the current group of 80 or so prospective jurors about their exposure to media, including a newly published book about Nicole Brown Simpson that has greatly irritated Simpson's lawyers and the judge.

Rock Cocaine Manufactured For Sting Operation

Los Angeles Times

Southern California authorities have been manufacturing rock cocaine for a police department's undercover operations targeting neighborhood drug buyers, including those in an area near a middle school.

Defense attorneys on Thursday mounted a legal challenge to halt the practice, considered extremely risky by many law enforcement officials.

For the past 18 months, police in Santa Ana have sought special court orders to make hundreds of sales, Police Chief Paul M. Walters said. Powder cocaine seized in Santa Ana drug busts is taken to the Orange County Crime Laboratory, where it is cooked into rocks, also known as crack cocaine. It is then sold in $10 and $20 pieces.

Walters acknowledged that reintroducing drugs to the streets is somewhat unorthodox, but he said no one has been injured. Police said some buyers have ingested the rocks before they could be arrested, but Walters said there have been no reports of buyers suffering ill effects from swallowing the substance. And he said undercover officers have tried to avoid sales to juveniles.

During processing at the crime lab, the individual rocks are coated with a special dye that causes any part of the body touched by the drug to glow when later illuminated under a black light. That helps police identify suspects who swallow the drugs or try to drop them.

O'Leary to OK $1.1 Billion Laser For Nukes Research

Los Angeles Times

A controversial proposal to build a $1.1 billion laser for nuclear weapons research at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, located east of San Francisco, will receive formal approval Friday by Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary.

O'Leary is scheduled to announce the OK to begin design work for the laser facility in a speech at the lab Friday afternoon, ending months of anxious waiting by scientists on a decision that is seen as crucial to the future of Livermore.

The laser, which will rank as one of the largest defense or energy research programs of the next decade, is intended to insure the safety and reliability of the Pentagon's stockpile of weapons by allowing bomb designers to probe the interior of nuclear explosions.

Known as the National Ignition Facility, the laser will be larger than a football stadium and powerful enough to create a brief thermonuclear fire. The laser experiments would substitute for underground nuclear tests, which the U.S. ended in September 1992 and which are likely to be permanently banned under a future international treaty.

The Energy Department's intention to locate the project at Livermore signals that the lab will probably have a key role in nuclear research, even though its weapons work has eroded considerably since the end of the Cold War.