Duke Starts White Rights Group

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke launched a civil rights group for whites yesterday, saying they face "massive discrimination" from the nation's growing population of minorities.

"European Americans must band together as a group the same way African Americans do, the same way other minorities do," Duke said, announcing formation of the National Organization for European American Rights.

About 75 organizers of the new group, which will be based in Mandeville, La., plan to meet today in Philadelphia, and Duke, who is a former Louisiana state representative, said there are already member representatives in 30 states.

The Census Bureau predicts that non-Hispanic whites will drop from 72 percent of the total population last year to 53 percent by 2050 as immigration increases and the population of minorities grows more rapidly than whites.

Ken Jacobson, assistant national director for the Anti-Defamation League, called Duke's announcement a transparent effort by "a leading racist and hater" to recast himself as a civil rights leader.

* LOS ANGELES--A federal judge has set aside a death sentence for a man convicted of murder 21 years ago because the jury foreman quoted passages on "eye for eye" retribution from the Bible to his fellow members on the panel. Stevie Lamar Fields, 44, was sentenced to die for the 1978 murder of University of Southern California student librarian Rosemary Cobb. Before the Bible reading, the jury had deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of life in prison without parole, which is what Fields will get unless the state wins another death sentence at a new penalty hearing.

* EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.--A judge has ordered an Illinois woman to remain jailed for refusing to let her daughter visit with her paternal grandmother. Julie Mehring, 27, has been jailed since Nov. 17--except for a Christmas furlough--for defying a court order that grants Ella Mehring, 76, the right to visit with 7-year-old Jenna Mehring. Julie Mehring maintains the state's grandparent-visitation law is unconstitutional and that she should decide who her child visits, not a court. The Supreme Court is considering grandparent visitation rights in Washington state, and the decision could have a nationwide impact.

* GOLDEN, Colo.--The Jefferson County School Board voted Thursday to replace the Columbine High School library, where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 10 classmates last April. A student-parent group proposed razing the library, replacing it with an atrium and building a wing to house a new library.

* NEW YORK--Obstetrician Allan Zarkin, 61, who delivered a baby by Caesarean section, then used his scalpel to carve 3-inch initials into the mother's abdomen because witnesses said he thought he had done a "beautiful job," is being sued by the woman, Liana Gedz, for $5 million. Zarkin's lawyer said the doctor suffers from a "frontal lobe disorder" called Pick's disease, characterized by personality changes and inappropriate behavior.