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News Briefs I

Witness Tries to Tie Nichols To Fertilizer Purchases


Prosecutors in the second Oklahoma City bombing trial Thursday sought to tie Terry Nichols to the purchase of two tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer like that used in the worst terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil.

An FBI analyst told the jury how she found, tucked behind tea towels in a kitchen cabinet of Nichols' home, a receipt in the name of Mike Havens for 2,000 pounds of fertilizer - 40 bags weighing 50 pounds each - bought at a McPherson, Kan., farm cooperative.

The analyst, Joann Thomas, said she discovered the pink receipt wrapped around two $50 gold coins on the night of April 22, 1995 - three days after the truck bombing - when investigators spent nine hours searching Nichols' small white frame house in Herrington, Kan., after his arrest as a material witness.

Nichols later was named in the same murder and conspiracy indictment as his Army buddy, Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted and sentenced to death last summer for detonating the bomb, which killed 168 people and injured 500 others when it wrecked the federal building in downtown Oklahoma City.

During McVeigh's trial last spring, FBI specialists testified they found McVeigh's fingerprints on the fertilizer receipt found in Nichols' kitchen.

While Nichols' court-appointed lawyers stipulated that their client used the name Mike Havens to rent storage units in central Kansas, they challenged the prosecution's effort to link him to two purchases of ammonium nitrate fertilizer totaling 4,000 pounds.

House Panel Tables Bill Banning Racial Preferences

Los Angeles Times

Signaling an ideological split within Republican ranks over affirmative action, a House panel voted Thursday to kill legislation that would have ended all federal programs designed to help minorities and women.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 17-9 to table an anti-preference bill supported by the GOP leadership, which has made revoking race and gender-based programs one of its major legislative goals.

As affirmative action supporters girded for an expected battle with the GOP majority, Rep. George Gekas, R-Pa., stunned a packed hearing by offering a motion to table the bill.

After the vote, which ensures the measure will not be taken up this year, Democrats and affirmative action supporters stood in the crowded hearing room, cheering and hugging in an highly unusual and spontaneous celebration.

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., praised the committee vote, and called the bill "an extreme measure backed by the House Republican leadership out of step with public opinion."

Gephardt cited Tuesday's voter referendum in Houston upholding the Texas city's affirmative action programs as evidence that Americans support affirmative action.

Israelis, Palestinians Inch Forward in Peace Talks

Los Angeles Times

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators claimed some modest progress in their renewed Middle East peace talks Thursday, enough to persuade Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to schedule separate meetings next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu '76 and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

"It's a very good beginning," Mahmoud Abbas, a senior adviser to Arafat, said after he and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy met with Albright to mark the end of a round of talks in Washington that began Monday. "We did not reach an agreement but we found a good deal of understanding."

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said Albright would meet in Europe with Netanyahu and Arafat on her way to a Middle East economic meeting that starts Nov. 16 in Qatar. Israeli officials said the Netanyahu meeting would be in London and Palestinian sources said the Arafat talks would be in Geneva.

Rubin said lower-level Israeli-Palestinian bargaining would resume in the region Sunday, focusing on creation of an airport, seaport and industrial park in the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip and establishment of a safe-passage route through Israel to connect Gaza with Palestinian-ruled areas of the West Bank.