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World briefs 6/17/04

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Internet hate conference opens in Paris

PARIS -- Experts gathered in Paris on Wednesday seeking a common approach to combatting racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic propaganda on the Internet, believed to be a chief factor in rising numbers of hate crimes. Officials from more than 60 countries were attending the two-day conference aimed at finding ways to keep racist information off the Web without compromising free speech and freedom of expression.

Md. triple murderer stay of execution overturned

BALTIMORE, Md. -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for the execution of a convicted murderer who contends Maryland's execution method is illegal. The high court threw out a stay of execution given to convicted killer Steven Oken and denied Oken's request for another stay based on Maryland's method of performing lethal injections.

Genocide charges against Milosevic will stand

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The U.N. war crimes tribunal on Wednesday dismissed a mid-trial motion to acquit Slobodan Milosevic on genocide charges, handing the former Yugoslav president a setback three weeks before he was to begin his defense. Three independent lawyers appointed by the court to ensure fairness had argued that the prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the genocide charges and asked that they be dismissed. Milosevic is representing himself.

Family pleads for safety of kidnapped American

TRENTON, N.J. -- The son of an American kidnapped in Saudi Arabia pleaded with the Saudi government Wednesday to work to free his father, saying he "does not deserve this." Paul Johnson Jr., 49, a Lockheed Martin employee from Stafford Township, was kidnapped Saturday. Paul Johnson III made his plea on CNN, appearing with an aunt and with the 3-year-old grandson his father has never met in person.

More than 22,000 flee Congo fighting

CIBITOKE, Burundi -- More than 22,000 Congolese refugees fleeing fighting in eastern Congo have crossed the border into Burundi in the past week, a local official said Wednesday. The refugees have been put into two camps in Cibitoke and Rugumbo, two towns just miles apart near the Congolese border. Refugees were separated because of tensions between different tribes in eastern Congo, said Onespohore Nduwumwami, mayor of Rugombo.

Labor backs Sharon in parliament vote

JERUSALEM -- Israel's opposition Labor Party backed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a crucial parliamentary vote Wednesday, a day after he was cleared of corruption charges -- boosting Sharon's plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip. Labor was sending signals of readiness to join Sharon's government to promote the Gaza move, but there was stiff opposition from party members on both sides. Also, a poll showed the Israeli public was not behind a Sharon-Labor team.

Southern Baptists reject back gay marriage ban

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Southern Baptist Convention voted down a controversial proposal Wednesday that would have asked parents to pull their children from public schools in favor of religious education. On the final day of the denomination's annual meeting, some 8,500 church representatives also approved a call to amend the U.S. Constitution to bar gay marriage. The 16.3 million-member SBC is the nation's largest Protestant body.

Russia's richest on trial for fraud, tax evasion

MOSCOW -- Russia's richest man and a major shareholder of his former oil company went on trial Wednesday -- confined in a metal cage -- on fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion charges that supporters say are politically motivated by the Kremlin. Former Yukos oil company CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky exchanged glances and sometimes a comforting smile with his elderly parents, Marina and Boris. He also chatted warmly with co-defendant Platon Lebedev inside the cage in Meschchansky district court.-- From wire reports

Catholic bishops authorize abuse audit

America's Roman Catholic bishops voted overwhelmingly to authorize more evaluations of sex abuse prevention plans in all U.S. dioceses, despite earlier attempts by some church leaders to delay further audits. The bishops announced their decision in a statement Tuesday from their private spiritual retreat in suburban Denver, where victim advocates and lay activists had flocked to pressure them to open the weeklong meeting.

New draft retains tough language on Iran

VIENNA, Austria -- Europe's three major powers shrugged off Iranian threats of retaliation Wednesday and put final touches on a tough resolution rebuking Tehran for continued nuclear cover-ups. A draft seen by The Associated Press retained strong language designed to keep up pressure on Iran a year after the International Atomic Energy Agency began to probe nearly two decades of its suspect nuclear program.

Greenpeace blocks timber road in Oregon

GLENDALE, Ore. -- The environmentalist group Greenpeace opened its summer campaign to protect old growth forests in southern Oregon with a mixture of low-tech tactics and a high-tech way to tell the world what it was doing. Three protesters, armed with a sattellite Internet connection, were arrested Tuesday after being dislodged from a 20-foot shipping container that had been plopped down in the middle of a logging road to block workers from getting to 236 acres of forest designated for a timber sale.

Iraqis angry at prison abuse, worry about safety

WASHINGTON -- President Bush is fond of telling Americans they have liberated Iraq and that the country's future generations will be thankful. The current generation, however, overwhelmingly views U.S. forces as occupiers and wishes they would just leave, according to a poll. The poll, requested by the Coalition Provisional Authority last month, found more than half of Iraqis surveyed believed both that they'd be safer without U.S. forces and that all Americans behave like the military prison guards pictured in the Abu Ghraib abuse photos.

Atoms advance more powerful computers

In a step toward making ultra-powerful computers, scientists have transferred physical characteristics between atoms by using a phenomenon so bizarre that even Albert Einstein called it spooky. Such "quantum teleportation" of characteristics had been demonstrated before between beams of light. The work with atoms is "a landmark advance," H.J. Kimble of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and S.J. van Enk of Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., declare in today's issue of the journal Nature.

Saudi police surround, fire on house in capital

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi security forces and police surrounded a house in the capital Wednesday, Saudi security officials said, and intermittent gunfire was heard. Police surrounded the entire district of Al-Badeaa, in southwestern Riyadh, and officers at a checkpoint about a half-mile away diverted traffic to other routes. Gunfire could be heard late into the night and more security forces were seen arriving.

Donors find many ways to please a congressman

WASHINGTON -- There's more than one way to please a congressman with gifts. Donors contributed to Majority Leader Tom DeLay's legal defense fund. Wedding guests gave presents when Majority Whip Roy Blunt married a lobbyist. And, strange as it may seem, a London casino provided a "gift" to the lawmaker in charge of House operations. At least, that's how Rep. Bob Ney listed his winnings from a card game in financial disclosure forms released Wednesday. The disclosures are made public each year to provide a financial portrait of each lawmaker.

Islamic conference backs new Iraqi government

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- The world's largest Islamic organization pledged Wednesday to "actively help" Iraq in its transition to sovereignty and democracy -- support seen as key to boosting the stature of the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government. The 57-country Organization of the Islamic Conference, wrapping up a three-day foreign ministers' meeting in Istanbul, also called on the international community to give priority to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict and said Islamic countries will work to promote reform and development.

Registered traveler program to be tested in Minneapolis

WASHINGTON -- Frequent fliers will be able to avoid extra security inspections at airports by submitting to background checks as part of an experiment that begins in Minneapolis later this month, the Transportation Security Administration said on Wednesday. Congress authorized the agency to come up with such a program, called "registered traveler," more than two years ago when it created the TSA in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings.

WHO removes two approved HIV medicines

GENEVA -- The U.N. health agency has removed two versions of antiretroviral drugs -- commonly used in developing countries -- from its list of approved HIV medicines, saying it's uncertain they are biologically the same as the patented drugs. "We made a random check on the laboratory [testing the drug] and it did not meet good clinical and laboratory practice," said Daniela Bagozzi, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization.

Post office to issue Reagan stamp

WASHINGTON -- A postage stamp honoring Ronald Reagan will be issued next year, the Postal Service announced Wednesday. Postal policy is to honor prominent Americans with a stamp no sooner than 10 years after their death, except for former presidents who, the agency said, can be honored on their first birth anniversary following death. Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911 and died June 5.

Explosion near convoy kills four in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A remote-controlled bomb hit a convoy of German peacekeepers in northern Afghanistan Wednesday, killing an Afghan driver and three civilians, officials said. The attack added to concerns about deteriorating security ahead of September elections. Mutaleb Beg, the provincial police chief, said the roadside bomb exploded in Kunduz, 150 miles north of Kabul.

House Democrats offering help to workers

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats are unveiling an election-year plan to stem the loss of jobs overseas, encourage high-skilled employment at home and ease the pain the global market can inflict on American workers. Officials said the cost of the proposals, $125 billion over 10 years, would be covered by repealing tax breaks that go to firms sending jobs overseas.

British scientists apply to clone human embryos

LONDON -- Britain's reproductive science regulator said Wednesday it was considering the country's first request to clone human embryos for scientific research. A team at Newcastle University said they had asked the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority for a license to create embryos from which stem cells would be harvested for medical research. The researchers hope eventually to create insulin-producing cells that could be transplanted into diabetic patients.

-- From wire reports

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