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Briefs

Ritual Marks Kent State Shooting

The Washington Post
KENT, Ohio

By now, 25 years after the event, the rituals that commemorate the terrible 13 seconds are well established.

They began late Wednesday night when about 1,000 people holding candles gathered on the Commons of the Kent State University.

There the candlelight vigil continued until 12:24 p.m. Thursday. Then the "Victory Bell" in the Commons was rung again to recall the 13 seconds of gunfire from a phalanx of Ohio National Guard troops on a ridge overlooking the parking lot, four students shot dead - William Schroeder Jr., Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller and Sandra Scheuer - and nine others wounded.

Thursday, the students of the 1990s sprawled on the steep slope of Blanket Hill. The Victory Bell tolled 15 times, once for each of the Kent State casualties and for two Jackson State University students who were killed at a protest 11 days later in Mississippi.

The prelude to the killings was the invasion of Cambodia, ordered by Richard Nixon. Student protests erupted on various campuses. On May 2, the Kent State ROTC building was destroyed by fire.

Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes (R) ordered the National Guard to the campus. On May 4, in a haze of tear gas fired to disperse an anti-war rally, Guardsmen on the right flank suddenly wheeled, aimed and fired. More than 60 shots were fired in the direction of students.

GOP Senators Disagree on Foster

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Prospects for confirmation of surgeon general nominee Dr. Henry W. Foster continued to appear uncertain Thursday, as leading Republican senators disagreed over whether the issue should be put to the full Senate.

Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan. - who heads the committee considering the nomination - said she believes he deserves full consideration by the Senate. But Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., indicated he would not budge from his threat to keep it from a vote.

Kassebaum, chairwoman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, predicted the nomination would survive the committee, but acknowledged that Foster's Senate opponents could tangle up the nomination for months.

Dole indicated Thursday in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., that he had not changed his mind about preventing a vote.

The panel, which is dominated 9-7 by Republicans, is expected to vote within several weeks. It could send the nomination to the floor with a favorable recommendation, with an unfavorable recommendation or with no recommendation, or it could send the nomination back to President Clinton, in effect killing it.

Simpson Team Says Blood Tainted

Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES

Turning to the central accusation in the O.J. Simpson legal team's police-conspiracy theory, a defense lawyer attempted Thursday to show that enough of Simpson's blood sample is missing to have allowed officers to taint evidence in the case.

At the same time, the attorney accused Gregory Matheson, an assistant director and chief forensic chemist at the Los Angeles Police Department's crime lab, of misreading test results that could point to another suspect in the June 1994 murders.

After reviewing LAPD records and acknowledging that a Police Department nurse said he drew about 8 milliliters of Simpson's blood on the day after the murders, Matheson said the records do not account for what happened to about 1.5 milliliters.

If blood was used to taint swatches and someone substituted them for the ones collected at the scene of the crimes and other locations, it would compromise any later DNA test results. Matheson said Simpson Lawyer Robert Blasier's computations exaggerated the amount of blood that cannot be accounted for because they did not track blood lost when it is transferred from one vial to another.

Prosecutors also intend to rebut the defense's allegation of tainted evidence by presenting results of other tests that they say will show that the test tube of Simpson's blood could not be the source of stains sent to the laboratories.

Senate Blocks Lawsuit Bill

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

A rebellious Senate Thursday blocked passage of legislation to limit punitive damages in all civil lawsuits, dealing a stunning blow to Republican efforts to overhaul the nation's civil litigation system.

Republicans vowed to salvage some of the bill but conceded they may have to settle for curbs on product-liability awards, as proposed before they expanded the legislation to cover civil litigation.

In a defeat for Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, R-Kan., Republicans fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to cut debate on the measure and force a vote on final passage. They failed even to get a majority, losing by votes of 46-53 and 47-52 in back-to-back rollcalls.

As originally introduced, the bill, cosponsored by Sens. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., proposed only to limit punitive damages in cases against manufacturers of faulty and dangerous products, a goal pursued by many lawmakers over the past decade.

But it was broadened in several ways during two weeks of debate, including approval Wednesday of a proposal by Dole to limit punitive damages in all civil cases to twice the level of other awards, including lost wages, medical bills and pain-and-suffering.

Orange County Is Ground Zero Of Privatization Craze

Los Angeles Times
SANTA ANA, Calif.

Seeing green in Orange County's river of red ink, home-grown entrepreneurs and some of the nation's largest enterprises aim to provide home care for the elderly, defend impoverished defendants in court, and care for those locked up in jail. Some seek to buy county departments whole, including those that issue building permits and oversee redevelopment.

Orange County is ground zero of a national privatization craze.

Government agencies have toyed for years with the idea of selling off assets and farming out services to private business. But Orange County - desperate for cash after last year's collapse of its investment fund, distrustful of government, and deferential toward business - may well turn out to be the United States' most willing guinea pig.

Having slashed its operating budget by nearly half, adopted plans to lay off 11 percent of its work force and reduced the salaries of its highest-paid employees, the county is considering every offer, no matter how impractical or far-fetched it seems.

Political leaders can scarcely see the bottom of the black hole left by the December failure of the county's investment pool. With $1.7 billion in losses spread among cities, schools, special government districts and the county itself, privatization and asset sales are viewed by officials as critical ingredients in an odd stew of possible solutions.