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Archive for Sunday, January 19, 2003

Briefly

January 19, 2003

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Toronto: Police sue newspaper over articles on race

City police have filed a lawsuit seeking $1.4 billion in damages from the Toronto Star newspaper over a series of articles saying that police unfairly targeted blacks.

The lawsuit filed Friday pits Canada's largest municipal force against the country's largest daily. It claims that the articles published last year suggesting that police treat blacks differently than whites defamed the entire force of 7,200 officers.

"Accusing the members of the Toronto police service of racism is a very serious allegation," said Tim Danson, a lawyer representing the Toronto Police Assn., which filed the suit.

The association previously demanded an apology and retraction, but the Star refused.

Mary Deanne Shears, the Star's managing editor, said Friday the newspaper stood by the stories.

Australia: Bush fire kills two, destroys 388 homes

A fire swept into Australia's capital Saturday, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee. Two people were killed, police said.

Emergency services in Canberra said early today that 388 homes were destroyed by the flames, Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio reported.

A mist of fine ash blew through the streets Saturday. Weaker winds allowed hundreds of firefighters to tackle three major blazes raging around Canberra's edge.

"At this stage we are still looking at fairly benign conditions," fire service spokesman John Winter said.

More than 20 percent of the city was without power this morning and embers continued falling on houses, triggering fears more homes would be destroyed.

Saturday's blazes were the most devastating ever to hit the city.

Havana: Elian's dad, celebrities among candidates

The father of Elian Gonzalez, President Fidel Castro, an Olympic track medalist and a popular folk singer are on the ballot for Cuba's parliament in Sunday elections.

Candidates for the 609 seats run unopposed, leading critics to complain elections on the communist Caribbean island are meaningless. A recent pro-democracy petition, signed by thousands of Cubans, requested election reforms but was ignored by the government.

Castro -- a member of the unicameral National Assembly along with being president for 44 years -- claims the country's vote is more democratic than those of other nations because voter turnout is high and campaigns do not involve large amounts of money and propaganda.

This year, the president called on Cuba's more than 8 million voters to go to the polls and vote "united" for all candidates listed on their ballots.

Internationally renowned dissident Oswaldo Paya, a leading organizer of the Varela Project petition, said during a visit to Mexico last week that the elections are "neither constitutional nor legitimate."

Tokyo: Emperor Akihito has surgery for cancer

Doctors at a Tokyo hospital completed surgery Saturday on Japan's Emperor Akihito, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the government said.

Doctors who diagnosed the 69-year old emperor last month said they believed the cancer had not spread and that he was expected to fully recover.

Akihito's operation at the University of Tokyo Hospital began a little before 8 a.m. and ended Saturday afternoon, an official with the Imperial Household Agency said on condition of anonymity. He gave no further details.

The openness accompanying Akihito's hospitalization breaks with tradition at the imperial household, which has long kept the royal family's illnesses and medical treatment secret.

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