World briefs 06/20/03

Friday, June 20, 2003

Hollywood comes to Baghdad for U.S. troops

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Some 7,000 U.S. soldiers sweated and swayed through a USO show in an aircraft hangar in Baghdad on Thursday, as several American celebrities competed for their attentions.

"It's still hot, it's still miserable but it gives us a chance to get away from the whole war in Baghdad," said U.S. Army Lt. Justin Morseth of Newark, Ohio.

Stars who flew to Baghdad for the show included singer Kid Rock, actor Gary Sinise, National Football League players Duce Staley and Jason P. Taylor and actress Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and her husband, actor John Stamos.

The stars signed autographs and shook hands with the troops.

"These guys have done so much and I'm doing so little, but if a little bit can help a lot that's what I want to do," Sinise said.

In a poignant moment, Sinise delivered a letter from Morseth's wife. Sinise had been corresponding with Morseth, the stepson of a friend from a Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, which Sinise founded.

Ferry sinks on Yangtze; 23 dead or missing

BEIJING -- A ferry collided with a barge and sank Thursday on the Yangtze river in central China, leaving 23 people dead or missing, officials and state media said.

The ferry had 35 people aboard, including students returning from vacation, when it collided with the barge near the town of Fuling, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

A dozen people were rescued, Xinhua said. Authorities recovered three bodies, said Ye Youbing, deputy director of the Fuling Maritime Bureau.

The ferry and barge collided about 8 a.m. some 340 miles upstream from the Three Gorges Dam, the massive hydroelectric project that began operating this month. The Yangtze, one of China's busiest transportation arteries, is crowded with barges, ferries and cruise ships.

The barge and ferry were operating despite a ban on river traffic because of heavy fog, said an official at Yangtze River Nativigational Channel Bureau.

Powerful storm injures 21 on Japanese islands

TOKYO -- A tropical storm cut across southern Japan Thursday, leaving at least 21 people injured and dozens of homes damaged.

As of late Thursday, the storm was packing winds of 56 mph and was centered in the Sea of Japan, meteorological officials said. It was downgraded from a typhoon earlier Thursday.

Twenty-one people were injured, mostly hit by falling objects, in Japan's southern main island of Kyushu, police spokesman Kinya Hirano said. None of the injuries were life threatening.

Twenty-six houses were damaged with roof tiles blown off and windows and walls shattered, Hirano said. Landslides were reported in 22 places on Kyushu.

Thousands swamp refugee boat to get out of Liberia

MONROVIA, Liberia -- Thousands of frantic West African nationals struggled Thursday to board a refugee ship out of war-devastated Liberia -- desperate to leave despite a day-old truce with rebels fighting to drive out President Charles Taylor.

Taylor's government appeared to retreat farther from his pledge to cede power as part of the truce accord. Information Minister Reginald Goodridge rejected the idea of any "unceremonial departure" by the Liberian warlord-turned-president.

"Any disorderly transition could be a bad precedent, and lead to continuous violence, political revenge and instability," Goodridge told reporters in Monrovia, Liberia's capital.

At Monrovia's port, thousands of residents of Ghana crowded Thursday through a fenced-in entrance to board a boat sent by their home country to evacuate some of its nationals. Hundreds of Liberians scaled barbed-wire-topped walls to try to press aboard the ship as well.

-- From wire reports

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