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Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Briefly

September 17, 2003

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Paris

France sets aside aid after heat wave

The French government is setting aside $45 million for elderly people weakened by this summer's heat wave and hospitals that struggled to cope with the crisis.

About $19 million will pay for at-home assistance for the aged returning home from hospitals, Social Affairs Minister Francois Fillon told France-Inter radio Tuesday.

The rest will pay for extra hospital staff so doctors and nurses can have some time off after the crisis.

The government has said 11,435 people died in the heat in early August, when temperatures soared to 104. Most victims were elderly and died at home or at overburdened hospitals.

Tokyo

World's oldest woman turns 116 in Japan

A Japanese woman believed to be the oldest person in the world turned 116 on Tuesday.

Born in 1887, when Japan was still in the throes of its conversion from samurai rule to modern democracy, Kamato Hongo, pictured above, has been recognized as the world's oldest living person by the Guinness Book of Records after an American woman -- Maude Farris-Luse -- died in March at 115.

Hongo, whose husband died when she was 77, is famous throughout Japan for her habit of sleeping for two days and then staying awake for two days.

An Internet home page devoted to her lists her favorite snack as unrefined brown sugar and also reveals her secret to long life.

"Not moping around," it says.

Colombia

Troops can't locate kidnapped backpackers

Thousands of troops scouring the jungles surrounding Colombia's tallest peak failed to find any trace of eight foreign backpackers kidnapped by suspected rebels.

The guerrillas broke into cabins where more than a dozen foreign backpackers slept at dawn Friday, took their valuables, then marched eight of the fittest tourists into the jungles surrounding the snowcapped Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range.

The four Israelis, two Britons, a German and a Spaniard have not been heard from since they were seized by the insurgents believed to be from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

"We think they took them to the south, toward where the FARC has its hideouts," Army Gen. Leonel Gomez told The Associated Press.

Belgium

EU giving millions in aid to Liberia

The European Union said Tuesday it would give another $13.5 million in emergency aid to support African peacekeepers in Liberia.

The European Commission said $9 million would be used to cover support costs for peacekeepers from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Mali and other peace-building efforts in the West African nation.

The 3,000-member force was deployed to help end fighting between forces loyal to then-President Charles Taylor and rebels battling since 1999 to oust him. The Nigerian-led peacekeepers arrived last month, bringing calm to the capital after 2 1/2 months of fighting that killed more than 1,000 civilians.

The rest of the money -- $4.5 million -- will be distributed by the EU's humanitarian aid office.

Tuesday's decision follows an agreement in August to relax restrictions on aid to Liberia. So far this year, the EU has sent $8.4 million to Liberia in emergency aid.

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