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National briefs

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 18, 2000


Kennedy cousin to stand trial

STAMFORD, Conn. -- A Juvenile Court judge found sufficient evidence Thursday to try Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel in the 1975 slaying of a neighbor girl, but ordered an investigation into whether the 39-year-old man should be tried as an adult or a juvenile.

Skakel is charged with murder in the death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, who was bludgeoned with a golf club. The case is being handled for the time being in juvenile court because Skakel was 15 at the time.

After a hearing held in June, Judge Maureen Dennis ruled Thursday that enough evidence exists to try Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel.

But she ordered that a juvenile probation officer conduct an investigation before she rules on a prosecution request to transfer the case to adult court.

The decision on where Skakel will stand trial could make a big difference in the penalty he could face if found guilty.

If Skakel is convicted as an adult, he could get life in prison. It is not clear what penalty Skakel could face as a juvenile, but some legal experts have said he could be spared any punishment at all.

Helms: Not inviting Dalai Lama 'weak-kneed'

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused the United Nations of being "weak-kneed" for excluding the Dalai Lama from a conference of world religious leaders.

"I am upset," Helms, R-N.C., said in a letter to Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the world body.

More than 1,000 religious leaders have been invited to the Millennium World Peace Summit on U.N. property this month, but the Tibetan Buddhist leader was left out for fear of offending China. He was asked to attend the last two days of the conference and to give the concluding speech, at a New York hotel, away from the United Nations. He declined.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 with thousands of supporters after a failed revolt against Chinese rule of the mountain region.

Mary Ellen Glynn, a spokeswoman for Holbrooke, said he "is as upset as Sen. Helms is that the Dalai Lama was not invited and thinks that should be rectified immediately."

Elsewhere

PARENTAL NOTIFICATION: A federal judge in Denver struck down a Colorado law that requires minors to get permission from parents or guardians before having an abortion. U.S. District Judge Walker Miller ruled the law violated patients' rights by not allowing abortions for health reasons. The law was passed by voters in 1998, but Planned Parenthood sued and a judge put the act on hold before it could be enforced. Gary Rogers, a leader of the group that promoted the ballot issue, said the ruling was flawed because the state already has a law dealing with medical emergencies involving minors.

EARTHQUAKE RISK: New measurements suggest the risk of earthquake along the northern Hayward Fault in Northern California is less than previously believed. California researchers found that the deep portions of the fault were moving at about the same rate as the surface levels of the fault. Since there is an even motion along all levels of the fault, the researchers said, there is no build up of strain that could be released as an earthquake.

"FIRE-SAFE' CIGARETTES: A measure that could make New York the first state to require that all cigarettes be self-extinguishing was signed into law by Gov. George Pataki. The "fire-safe" cigarette legislation is designed to reduce fires that happen when smokers fall asleep or otherwise handle a cigarette carelessly. By mid-2003, all cigarettes sold in New York must be designed in such a way that they will go out after a while if the smoker does not take a puff.

EXPLOSIVES SPILLED: A military truck carrying rockets flipped over on a highway ramp and spilled its load Thursday in Hugo, Okla., injuring two National Guardsmen and prompting the evacuation of an elementary school. The rockets were in no danger of exploding, said Lt. Col. Pat Scully, an Oklahoma National Guard spokesman.

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