Nation briefs 8/15/03

Friday, August 15, 2003

Initial Peterson hearing will be open to public

MODESTO, Calif. -- A judge said Thursday he would not exclude the public from a preliminary hearing in the double murder trial of Scott Peterson, turning aside a defense request for a closed proceeding.

The defense lawyers had told Judge Al Girolami that keeping the Sept. 9 hearing open would let the media learn the identities of some witnesses.

Media lawyers argued that no preliminary hearings in high-profile cases have been closed in almost two decades. Preliminary hearings in California are like minitrials, with testimony from witnesses. At the end, a judge decides whether the case goes to trial.

Peterson, 30, has pleaded innocent in the killing of his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson, who vanished on Christmas Eve, and their unborn son. The bodies washed ashore in April along the San Francisco Bay.

Alabama justice says Commandments will stay

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court said Thursday he will not remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, defying a federal court order to remove the granite monument.

"I have no intention of removing the monument," Roy Moore said at a news conference. "This I cannot and will not do."

Moore said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop any removal.

His decision came six days before the Aug. 20 deadline for the 5,300-pound monument to be removed from the building's rotunda, where it is in clear sight of visitors coming in the main entrance.

Anti-stress measure has Denver on edge

DENVER -- Wherever there is disharmony, there is Jeff Peckman.

Sensing his hometown was on the verge of a collective breakdown, the lanky activist quietly gathered enough signatures to put a stress reduction measure on Denver's November ballot.

If approved, it could lead to Indian music being pumped into city office buildings, "less stressful" food in school cafeterias and mass meditation focusing on peace and tranquillity.

"This is what I was meant to do," he said. "I find progressive solutions to big problems."

"It's lunacy, it's frivolous, it's fantasy," declared Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown. "If you want fantasy go to Disneyland. This guy wants to mandate that everyone in Denver 'Have a Nice Day.' That's their decision, not the government's."

Doctors need prescription for poor penmanship

LOS ANGELES -- Surgeons at Riverside, Calif., County Regional Medical Center will soon start a pilot program to deal with a cliched but common curse -- poor penmanship that at minimum causes delays and, at worst, death.

Instead of scrawling notes on patients' charts, doctors at the Riverside County hospital will use Palm Pilots to create clean, typed notes.

"This is one of these things which, when you first hear it, sounds kind of mundane," said hospital Chief Executive Douglas Bagley. "If you think about it a little more deeply . . . it's kind of a chronic problem."

A doctor's handwriting can be a life-and-death matter. In 1995, a Texas man who was supposed to receive a heart medication instead was given a blood-pressure drug with a similar name because a pharmacist misread a cardiologist's scrawl. Worse, the patient was instructed to take eight times the regular dose because of the mixup. He suffered a heart attack the next day and died within two weeks.

-- From wire reports

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