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Archive for Wednesday, September 4, 2002

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September 4, 2002

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Moscow

Russia expedites payment to Germany

Russia made this year's payment on its Soviet-era debt to Germany early to help pay for billions of dollars in damage from summer floods, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

Moscow had already paid $172.1 million earlier this year, and owed another $172.1 million by Dec. 31, but Putin said the latter sum was transferred to Germany late last month.

The money "will be needed in Germany to help ease the consequences of the floods," Putin said during a meeting with German President Johannes Rau in the Kremlin. "We didn't want to wait until the end of the year."

Putin also said he hoped the early payment would bolster Russia's credit rating.

Russia was able to pay the money because of an unexpectedly good harvest that resulted from the long, hot summer, German officials said.

Puerto Rico

U.S. Navy begins exercises on Vieques

Fighter jets buzzed Tuesday over Vieques as activists shied away from their usual raucous protests, fearful of stiff jail sentences and fines in a post-Sept. 11 climate.

Pilots practiced flyovers, U.S. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Kim Dixon said, while the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and 11 other ships would likely practice shelling the bombing range today. The exercises, the third in the last year, are expected to last for 23 days.

The military has used the prized bombing range on Vieques for more than six decades. Opposition to the exercises grew when a civilian guard was killed after a Navy jet dropped two bombs off-target in April 1999. Since then, only inert bombs have been used.

Hundreds of people have tried to thwart the exercises by breaking onto the bombing range, often getting arrested, jailed and fined. But the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon muted the protests.

London

Capt. Cook letter found in picture frame

Hidden for more than 200 years, a letter written by British explorer Capt. James Cook was found wedged in the back of a picture frame.

The letter was written to the British Admiralty telling them he had returned safely from his first voyage to Australia.

Bonhams Auction House said Tuesday that one of its employees found the letter in the library of Brancaster Hall, a country house near Hunstanton, Norfolk, on England's east coast.

The handwritten note detailed the hardships faced by the crew of Cook's ship, the Endeavour, during its three-year journey to chart the coasts of New Zealand, eastern Australia and Tahiti.

Nearly a third of the Endeavour's crew was killed by malarial fever or dysentery and in the letter Cook refers to "28 dead tickets" the names of dead seamen.

Experts believe that Cook wrote the note in 1771 off the coast of Kent.

London

Mayor says he feels safer in New York

Mayor Ken Livingstone said Tuesday that he feels safer in New York than in London a surprising vote of no-confidence in his own city.

"I do feel safe in London, but I don't feel as safe as I did when I went to New York," Livingstone told reporters, adding that crime seemed much worse now than when he was a child. "I want to be back to something more like I grew up with. We have lost the visible (police) presence on the streets."

Crime has been increasing in London over the past several years, with muggings and other street crimes rising and robberies doubling in the autumn of 2001 compared with the previous year.

Yet the 641 murders New York recorded in 2001 dwarfed London's 171 homicides in fiscal 2001.

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