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Archive for Sunday, March 16, 2003

Briefly

March 16, 2003

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Bangladesh: Dozens missing after ferry sinks

A passenger ferry sank Saturday in a river in southern Bangladesh during a tropical storm, with about 30 people still missing and at least one confirmed dead, officials said.

The twin-deck ferry had nearly 200 passengers on board when it sank in the Tetulia River in Bhola district, 65 miles south of the capital, Dhaka, amid high winds and waves, the United News of Bangladesh agency reported.

Up to 150 passengers initially were reported missing and feared dead, but officials later said most of those on board managed to swim ashore or were picked up by passing boats.

Seasonal storms have hit Bangladesh since Friday, leaving thousands of people homeless and 50 injured.

West Bank: Pair with fake weapons enter Church of Nativity

An Israeli man and his wife who entered the Church of Nativity and threatened to blow themselves up Saturday were carrying fake weapons. Israeli security forces and Palestinian police detained them.

The man was carrying plastic guns. His wife, who had claimed to be wearing an explosives vest, had firecrackers strapped to her body, said Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser.

Police and the Israeli military said the man was an Israeli Jew and his wife was believed to be Christian. Both have histories of making past threats at the church and elsewhere.

The Church of the Nativity marks the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Beijing: U.S. Embassy urges reopening of newspaper

Protesting what it called backsliding on media freedom in China, the U.S. Embassy on Saturday urged authorities to reopen a pioneering newspaper shut down after publishing an article discussing political reform.

The closure of the 21st Century World Herald, published in the southern city of Guangzhou, was a "particular disappointment" in light of a mild relaxation of restrictions on the press, the embassy said.

Chinese authorities haven't commented on the closure of the paper. It was believed to have been ordered shut by officials of the ruling Communist Party's propaganda department, which keeps a tight leash on all Chinese media.

The move was apparently prompted by the weekly newspaper's publication of an interview with Li Rui, a former secretary to communist China's founder Mao Zedong in its March 3 edition. Li criticized Mao and single-party rule and called for free elections and other Western-style political reforms.

El Salvador: High absenteeism expected for elections

Salvadorans were once so passionate about their leaders that they braved gunfire to vote, but after years of economic despair and disappointment, turnout was expected to reach new lows in elections this weekend.

Recent polls indicate that voter turnout will be about 40 percent for the congressional and municipal elections today. The vote will be contested by the ruling Republican Nationalist Alliance, or ARENA, and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, the former guerrilla group.

Twenty years ago, 72 percent of voters turned out to cast ballots despite fighting between the government and the guerrillas. The sides signed a peace treaty in 1992 after an estimated 50,000 people died in 12 years of fighting.

Ten years later, the opponents are the same and the country still hasn't seen the progress and economic recovery many hoped for. Crime, unemployment and poverty remain the country's most pressing problems.

The campaign leading up to today's election has been plagued by violence.

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