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Archive for Sunday, April 25, 2004

Briefly

April 25, 2004

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Illinois

At least four die in plastics plant blast

An explosion at a plastics manufacturing plant jolted Illiopolis, killing four workers, critically injuring two others and forcing the evacuation of the entire community.

The blast late Friday demolished 50 percent to 75 percent of the Formosa Plastics Plant and rattled the windows and walls of houses more than a mile away.

"I'm not a war veteran, but that is the loudest explosion I've ever heard in my life," said Illiopolis Mayor Allen Brickey, who lives less than two miles from the plant.

Dozens of firefighters Saturday evening were still working to put out fires at the plant, about 25 miles east of Springfield. Officials said the fires might be put out today.

Workers were mixing vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate when an explosion occurred, followed by one or two subsequent blasts, Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson said. Eighteen workers were in the plant at the time.

Minnesota

Slain N.D. student mourned at service

More than 1,000 mourners packed a resort lodge and overflowed from two tents for the funeral of slain University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, who was remembered for her generous heart and infectious spirit.

The lodge in Nisswa was one of the few places in northern Minnesota large enough to hold such a crowd.

The body of Sjodin, 22, who grew up in nearby Pequot Lakes, was found April 17, five months after she disappeared from a Grand Forks, N.D., shopping mall parking lot.

The Rev. Mark Anderson told mourners that the community had moved from shock to anger to fear.

"Lastly, we became a community of sorrow," he said.

"We are here to begin the process of saying farewell to Dru," he said. "It's not a one-day shot."

Mourners received pine saplings wrapped in a pink ribbon, Sjodin's favorite color.

Denver

KKK joke angers Colorado Democrats

Democrats are furious about a statement by Republicans saying that comparing one of their candidates to presidential candidate John Kerry would be worse than comparing someone to the Ku Klux Klan.

The dispute started when The New York Times inadvertently published a photo of Republican Senate candidate Pete Coors above a story about a KKK member who murdered a black sharecropper. The Times published a correction Saturday.

Cinamon Watson, spokeswoman for Coors, said the error was "so outrageous it's kind of funny. It could have been worse. Pete could have been identified as John Kerry."

Chris Gates, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, demanded an apology.

New York

City officials drop Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance didn't incite arguments in East Nassau over the separation of church and state. It was simply too long.

Officials in this village just east of Albany decided to forgo reciting the 31-word pledge before board meetings because it took too much time.

"Given the fact people are pressed for time, my whole goal is to move the meetings along and try to remove things that are duplicative and generally not really necessary," Mayor Robert Henrickson said.

Henrickson and the trustees told the Troy Record the omission was not a political protest; they merely felt the minutes could be better spent working on town problems and projects.

"We are not a bunch of godless communists," the mayor said. "We just want to get some work done."

Cyprus

Reunification fails in split referendum

A U.N. plan to reunify the war-divided island of Cyprus collapsed Saturday despite American and European support when Greek Cypriots rejected the proposal in one referendum and Turkish Cypriots endorsed it in another.

That means Cyprus will not join the European Union on Saturday as a united state. Rather, EU laws and benefits will apply only to Greek Cypriots living in the island's south, according to negotiations.

Cyprus has been split into a Greek Cypriot-controlled south and a Turkish-occupied north since Turkey invaded in 1974 after a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. The breakaway state is recognized only by Turkey, which maintains 40,000 troops there.


Nigeria

Two U.S. oil workers killed in boat attack

Gunmen attacked a boat carrying oil workers in Nigeria's violence-racked southern delta region, killing two Americans and at least three Nigerians, company and army officials said Saturday.

A third American, an employee of oil giant ChevronTexaco, was in stable condition after being shot during the Friday afternoon attack on the Benin River near the southern city of Warri, ChevronTexaco spokesman Deji Haastrup said.

The gunmen opened fire on the boat's passengers after navy personnel guarding the oil workers refused to give up their arms, Haastrup said.

The motive for the attack was unclear, but ethnic fighters and ordinary criminals regularly sabotage multinational oil facilities and take oil workers hostage in the Niger Delta to demand payoffs from the companies.

No victims were immediately identified.

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