Nation/world digest 08/03/06

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Cuban focus remains on Fidel, not Raul

HAVANA -- Fidel Castro still appeared to be running the show in Cuba on Wednesday after undergoing abdominal surgery and naming his brother acting president. Raul Castro remained out of public view two days after the temporary leadership change was announced. The state news media's focus remained solely on the elder Castro and his recovery, creating uncertainty about who was really in charge.

Haditha probe supports shooting accusations

WASHINGTON -- Evidence collected on the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot the civilians, including unarmed women and children, a Pentagon official said Wednesday. Agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service have completed their initial work on the incident last November, but may be asked to probe further as Marine Corps and Navy prosecutors review the evidence and determine whether to recommend criminal charges, according to two Pentagon officials who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity. The Marines initially reported after the killings at Haditha that 15 Iraqi civilians had been killed by a roadside bomb and in crossfire between Marines and insurgents.

Tropical storm threatens to become hurricane

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Tropical Storm Chris swept through the eastern Caribbean on Wednesday, with top sustained winds of 65 mph as it moved west-northwest toward the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. A hurricane watch was issued in the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the National Hurricane Center said. The watch meant hurricane conditions of winds of at least 74 mph were possible by late today.

In strategy shift, AOL makes more services free

NEW YORK -- AOL said Wednesday it would give away e-mail accounts and software previously available only to customers who paid as much as $26 a month. The company hopes to chase additional online advertising dollars instead. Encouraged by such trends as its 40 percent jump in ad revenue in the second quarter, AOL figures it can prevent users from defecting to Yahoo Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., which have offered free, ad-supported e-mail for years.

8,000 Israeli troops on ground in Lebanon

BOURJ AL-MULOUK, Lebanon -- Israel pressed the first full day of a massive new ground attack, sending 8,000 troops into southern Lebanon on Wednesday and seizing five people it said were Hezbollah fighters in a dramatic airborne raid on a northeastern town. Hezbollah retaliated with its deepest strikes yet into Israel, firing a record number of more than 210 rockets. Israeli military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said their troops were going from village to village in south Lebanon to clear them of Hezbollah guerrillas.

Mel Gibson charged with drunken driving

LOS ANGELES -- Mel Gibson was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor drunken driving, having an elevated blood-alcohol level and having an open container of liquor in his car. The three counts were filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors five days after Gibson was pulled over for speeding and unleashed anti-Semitic comments at the arresting deputy. Arraignment was set for Sept. 28. If convicted, Gibson faces up to six months in jail.

-- From wire reports

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