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News Briefs

Prison Officials Will Severely Limit Access To McVeigh


Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said Thursday that prison officials will sharply limit media access to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh in the weeks prior to his May 16 execution, and urged the press not to become a “co-conspirator” in McVeigh’s quest for infamy.

As the first reporters and protesters begin to descend on federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind., prison officials said McVeigh will be limited to 300 minutes of telephone calls, lasting no more than 15 minutes per day, for the remaining month of his life. No jailhouse interviews will be permitted, and reporters will be asked to honor a ban on recording phone calls.

“I don’t want (McVeigh) to be able to purchase access to the podium of America with the blood of 168 innocent victims,” Ashcroft told reporters at a Washington news conference. “Please do not help him inject more poison into our culture. He’s caused enough senseless damage already. ... I would ask that the news media not become Timothy McVeigh’s co-conspirator in his assault on America’s public safety and upon America itself.”

Ashcroft said the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the FBI will use encryption software and other technology to thwart any attempts to tap into a closed circuit video feed of McVeigh’s execution, which will be broadcast live over digital phone lines for survivors and relatives of the dead assembled in Oklahoma. Federal law prohibits the broadcast from being recorded.

The heavy restrictions underscore the struggle by federal officials to provide access to an event with global interest, while remaining sensitive to victims of the deadliest terrorist act on American soil. Thousands of journalists, activists and spectators are expected to swarm Terre Haute for McVeigh’s death by lethal injection, the first federal execution since 1963.

The plea for restraint also continues an emerging theme of media criticism by Ashcroft, who has several times condemned America’s “culture of violence” and recently suggested that video games may help foster school shootings. Ashcroft said Thursday that he was not trying to muzzle the media, only requesting that they “be responsible.”

Relations With Russia Are Improving


Relations between the United States and Russia rebounded Thursday, just three weeks after each ordered out suspected spies from the other side, as the two governments announced plans for the first summit between Presidents Bush and Vladimir V. Putin.

The meeting will be held soon and no later than the July summit in Italy of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said after breakfast talks here with Russian Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov.

“Both presidents are anxious to see this meeting take place as soon as possible,” Powell said.

His statement indicated a noticeable shift in attitude. The Bush administration has kept the Russians at arm’s length since coming into office Jan. 20, in effect demoting Moscow’s standing in the new U.S. government’s foreign policy agenda.

The United States and Russia also announced several joint initiatives, exchanges between Cabinet officials, bilateral meetings of lawmakers and an intensive dialogue on their disparate visions of strategic stability, an issue that includes the controversial proposed U.S. national missile defense system.

It was almost as if the spy flap never happened, even though the biggest part of it has yet to play out. By July 1, more than 40 diplomatic personnel from each nation must leave embassies in Washington and Moscow, following four each who were asked to leave last month.

Often referring to his Russian counterpart by his first name, Powell said Thursday that the two nations had “moved on” from the incident, which was sparked by the discovery that a senior U.S. counterintelligence official within the FBI allegedly was spying for Russia.

Kaiser Permanente Settles Suit, Vows to Treat Disabled Better


In an action that could dramatically change the way hospitals and clinics deal with the physically disabled, California health care giant Kaiser Permanente on Thursday agreed to settle a lawsuit by launching a comprehensive review to correct its treatment of the disabled at scores of facilities statewide.

Because Kaiser is one of the nation’s largest health care providers, disability rights advocates called the proposed reforms “historic” and predicted that they would establish a blueprint for medical centers nationwide. They also praised Kaiser for its swift response to shortcomings at its facilities.

Problems at Kaiser ranged from a doctor telling a wheelchair patient to weigh herself on a truck scale to physicians failing to treat pressure sores because patients were not lifted from their chairs during exams.

At a news conference here in the offices of advocacy lawyers, Kaiser’s California Division President Richard Pettingill outlined a 12-point program designed to remedy a range of physical and emotional obstacles that activists say modern medicine has erected in the path of disabled patients.

Kaiser officials declined to suggest what the corrections might cost. But their plans include hiring independent consultants to oversee access and health care surveys, removing architectural barriers -- everywhere from parking lots to examination rooms -- and installing critical diagnostic equipment such as accessible scales and exam tables.

Also included will be sensitivity training for doctors, nurses and other staff in dealing not only with the physically disabled but with patients who have vision, hearing, cognitive and speech impairments. The reforms also feature a complaint system and ongoing advice from the disabled community, Pettingill said.