Nation/world briefs 1/8/04

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Air purifier may be cause of space station problems

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Flight controllers suspect an air purifier may be leaking aboard the international space station and causing the biggest prolonged loss of pressure ever seen at the 5-year-old orbital complex. American and Russian space officials stressed Tuesday that the drop in air pressure is slow and there is no immediate danger to the crew or the operation of the outpost. If the pressure were to fall dangerously low, astronaut Michael Foale and cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri could abandon the station in the docked capsule and quickly return to Earth.

Court:Government must allow HIV children in class

NAIROBI, Kenya -- A judge on Wednesday gave Kenya's government one day to find a way to persuade public schools to admit children infected with the AIDS virus. The East African nation's largest AIDS orphanage has taken the government to court over the refusal of several Nairobi elementary schools to let HIV-positive orphans attend class. Judge Martha Kome gave the Ministry of Education, the Nairobi City Directorate of Education and the Attorney General's office one day to try to work out a deal. A spokesman said the orphanage would be satisfied with nothing less than a declaration from the ministry banning discrimination against HIV-positive children in Kenya's public schools.

Rats next target in China SARS crackdown

GUANGZHOU, China -- Animal merchants watched aghast as government SARS fighters descended on China's largest wildlife market Wednesday and hauled off bagfuls of squirming civet cats for slaughter. The aggressive fight against suspected causes of SARS in the southern city of Guangzhou has just begun. The government plans to kill all 10,000 civet cats in the area by Saturday, then move on to the next target: rats. The response comes after Guangzhou recorded China's first SARS case of the season, a television producer who was expected to be well enough to go home today after being hospitalized for three weeks.

NYC settles with family of immigrant shot by police

NEW YORK -- The mother of an unarmed West African immigrant killed by undercover police in a hail of 41 bullets nearly five years ago called a $3 million settlement with the city a step toward closure. Amadou Diallo, a street vendor from Guinea, was hit 19 times and killed in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building on Feb. 4, 1999, by officers who said they mistook his wallet for a gun. The 22-year-old's death turned him into an international symbol of police brutality, heightened racial tensions and sparked massive protests. Diallo's apartment building, its door pocked with bullet holes, became the site of vigils.

Israelis and Libyans hold secret meetings

JERUSALEM -- In signs of a potential thaw in relations between Israel and one of its historic enemies, Libyan and Israeli officials have held at least two meetings, one involving a high-ranking Israeli diplomat last month in Europe, Israeli media reported Wednesday. The other meeting, which took place several months ago, included an Israeli lawmaker from the ruling coalition and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, the lawmaker said. Libya denied any meetings took place.

Theory: Sun's ray burst triggered mass extinction

ATLANTA -- The second-largest extinction in the Earth's history, the killing of two-thirds of all species, may have been caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun after gamma rays destroyed the Earth's ozone layer. Astronomers are proposing that a supernova exploded within 10,000 light years of the Earth, destroying the chemistry of the atmosphere and allowing the sun's ultraviolet rays to cook fragile, unprotected life forms. All this happened some 440 million years ago and led to what is known as the Ordovician extinction, the second most severe of the planet's five great periods of extinction.

-- From wire reports

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