Nation/world digest 01/31/04

Saturday, January 31, 2004

NASA checking for sign of mineral linked to water

PASADENA, Calif. -- Scientists were trying Friday to determine whether NASA's Opportunity rover spotted evidence of gray hematite, an iron-rich mineral that typically -- but not always -- forms in water, a finding that would provide a clue that dry and dusty Mars may once have been wet. Ray Arvidson of Washington University, the deputy main scientist for the mission, said NASA is still downloading other data to corroborate the analysis. NASA also said Friday that the six-wheeled Opportunity rover should roll off its lander onto the surface of Mars early today, less than a week after it safely landed on the opposite side of the planet from its twin, Spirit.

Key Chirac ally convicted in French finance scandal

NANTERRE, France -- In a blow to President Jacques Chirac and his conservative government, a court Friday convicted a key ally and potential successor, former Prime Minister Alain Juppe, in a party financing scandal and barred him from office. Pale and close to tears, Juppe rushed out of the packed courtroom by a back door, his political career in tatters, after the three-judge panel found him guilty of overseeing the systematic use of public funds to pay workers in Chirac's party. The court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre sentenced Juppe, 58, to a suspended 18-month prison term for "illegally taking advantages."

Israel raids Bethlehem, blows up bomber's home

JERUSALEM -- Israeli forces briefly raided the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Friday and blew up the home of a Palestinian suicide bomber, an uncharacteristically restrained response to Thursday's Jerusalem bus bombing that killed 10 Israelis and wounded more than 50. Israeli officials said they were tempering their reaction because any retaliation that worsens the plight of Palestinians "is not effective." The restraint also appeared to be an effort by Israel not to anger U.S. officials or invite international criticism ahead of a court case on its West Bank security barrier.

Cannibal convicted of manslaughter, not murder

KASSEL, Germany -- A computer expert who killed, dismembered and ate another man was convicted Friday of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison after a court rejected a murder charge because the victim had asked to be eaten. Armin Meiwes' defense argued that since victim Bernd Juergen Brandes, 43, had volunteered to be killed and eaten, the crime should be classified as a mercy killing. If the verdict stands, Meiwes would be eligible for parole in about 5 1/2 years. He has said he will write his memoirs in prison.

Iran's clerics lift ban on some reform candidates

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's hard-line Guardian Council on Friday reinstated a third of the candidates it disqualified from next month's legislative elections but rejected calls by liberals to postpone the vote. A leading reformist said the vote would still be undemocratic with the limited reinstatements and threatened a mass boycott by liberal politicians. Even with Friday's reinstatement of 1,160 candidates, more than 2,400 liberals are still barred from running -- including more than 80 incumbent lawmakers. The dispute over the vote is Iran's biggest political crisis in years.

Jury deadlocks in case of videotaped police assault

LOS ANGELES -- For the second time in six months, a jury deadlocked Friday in the assault case against a former Inglewood police officer accused of roughing up a handcuffed, black teenager during a videotaped arrest in 2002. Superior Court Judge William Hollingsworth declared a hung jury in the case against Jeremy Morse, 26, after the panel split 6-6 over whether he used excessive force. He was charged with assault under color of authority, which carried up to three years in prison. Morse's first trial ended last July with the jury deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of conviction. Morse, who is white, was shown on the tape slamming Donovan Jackson, then 16, onto the trunk of a police car and punching him in the face.

-- From wire reports

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