Archive for Monday, February 23, 2004


February 23, 2004



Islamic state says polio vaccine a U.S. plot

An Islamic state in Nigeria that is at the heart of a spreading Africa polio outbreak declared Sunday it would not relent on its boycott of a mass vaccination program that it called a U.S. plot to spread AIDS and infertility among Muslims.

The declaration came on the eve of a 10-nation emergency immunization campaign.

U.N. aid agencies insist the door-to-door drive to inoculate 63 million children in 10 west and central African countries, including Nigeria, is critical to stemming a growing polio outbreak spreading out from Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north.

Globally, the World Health Organization says the standoff endangers a massive effort that had worked toward stamping out polio entirely. The 16-year-old public health project has reduced the number of cases worldwide from 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 last year.


Government to allow random drug searches

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday that British schools would be given the power to carry out random drug testing on students.

In an interview with the News of the World newspaper, Blair said school principals would have the right to either offer treatment to children caught by the tests, expel them or report them to police.

"If heads (principals) believe they have a problem in their school then they should be able to do random drug testing," Blair said.

The controversial plans were welcomed by the National Association of Head Teachers but were condemned by opposition lawmakers and civil liberty campaigners.

Blair's proposed initiative is similar to the drug testing program already in place in schools across the United States.


Judge in Milosevic trial to resign

The judge who presided over Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial for two years will resign for health reasons, the U.N. tribunal said Sunday, posing the risk of further delays in the former Yugoslav president's landmark trial.

British Judge Richard May, who presided over the oft-delayed trial with a stern hand, will leave the three-judge panel on May 31 because of an unspecified condition.

Milosevic's trial is the Yugoslav tribunal's most important and complex case, and May's replacement will have to wade through two years of testimony and thousands of documents to catch up.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will appoint the successor.

Milosevic, 61, faces 66 war crimes allegations related to the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Legal scholars consider his trial the most significant since Nazi leaders were tried after World War II.


Helicopter attack kills one, wounds one

A lone attacker sprayed a U.S. company's helicopter with gunfire as it prepared to take off from a southern Afghan village Sunday, killing the Australian pilot and seriously wounding at least one American passenger.

Four foreigners and an Afghan interpreter had come in the helicopter to inspect the construction of a health clinic in the village of Thaloqan, about 40 miles southwest of the provincial capital, Kandahar.

The group was about to leave when a man armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle attacked the helicopter and then fled, said Khalid Pashtoon, spokesman for governor of Kandahar province.

The Australian pilot was killed and an American woman who was helping set up health clinics in the region was seriously wounded, a U.S. Embassy spokesman told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Officials said the helicopter belonged to The Louis Berger Group Inc., an engineering firm based in East Orange, N.J., that oversees infrastructure projects in southern Afghanistan.


Jesus movie may help save dying language

An ancient, dying language gets a new life on American movie screens this week.

Some linguists, who fear the language spoken by Jesus could vanish within a few decades, hope for a boost from Mel Gibson's new film, "The Passion of the Christ," opening Wednesday in U.S. theaters. It is performed entirely in Aramaic and Latin.

Aramaic was once the lingua franca of the Middle East and parts of Asia. Today, the Syrian Orthodox community in Jerusalem offers Aramaic in summer school, but there is little interest and fewer than half the 600 members speak the language.

Just a half-million people around the world, mostly Christians, still speak Aramaic at home.

Aramaic is one of the few languages that has been spoken continuously for thousands of years. It first appeared in written records around the 10th century B.C. although it was likely spoken earlier.

It is a Semitic language and has similarities with Hebrew and Arabic.

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