USA

Opening arguments in the state murder trial of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols were delayed Monday when questions arose about two jurors and an alternate with distant familial connections to the prosecution. Nichols already is serving a life sentence for his conviction on federal charges in connection with the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. Now he faces 160 first-degree murder charges, covering the deaths beyond those of eight federal officers for which he already has been tried. Prosecutors will try to prove that Nichols played a key role in building and delivering the bomb that destroyed the building - for which Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001.

The Bush administration had no "advance warning" about the Israeli missile strike that killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the militant Palestinian group Hamas early Monday, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told NBC's "Today" show. Hamas has claimed the attack could not have been conducted without US approval and has suggested that Americans soon could be targeted for reprisals.

The Bush administration cut an FBI request for $1.5 billion in counterterrorism funding in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by almost two-thirds, according to a Washington Post report. The report cited administration documents obtained from the Center for American Progress, which is run by former senior Clinton administration aide John Podesta. The report came as officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations prepare to testify this week before commission investigating the attacks.

Urban public school students improved their reading and math scores between 2002 and 2003, according to results of a study released Monday by the Council of the Great City Schools, which reviewed test scores from 61 city school districts in 37 states. Some of the better gains were turned in by fourth graders, 47 percent of whom were at or above proficiency level in reading - a jump of 5 percent - and 51 percent in math - almost a 7 percent improvement. No Child Left Behind legislation, a centerpiece of President Bush's education agenda, requires state testing of students in grades 3 to 8.

The anti-Vietnam war activities of John Kerry, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, were monitored closely by the FBI in the 1970s, The Los Angeles Times reported, citing copies of intelligence files obtained by author Gerald Nicosia. Nicosia has obtained thousands of documents in conducting research for a book on the subject. Kerry told the newspaper he has long known he was a target of surveillance, but not the extent of FBI surveillance that included infiltration of the Vietnam Veterans against the War, a group he once led.

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