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Archive for Thursday, September 9, 2004

Briefly

September 9, 2004

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California

Expert: Hair on boat like Laci Peterson's

Two strands of dark hair found on Scott Peterson's boat could not have come from him and are consistent with strands taken from his slain wife's hairbrush, a prosecution expert testified Wednesday.

Karen Korsberg, an FBI trace evidence expert, took the stand as testimony turned to the hairs, a key piece of physical evidence to bolster the prosecution's contention that the boat was used to dispose of Laci Peterson's body.

Korsberg said her tests excluded the possibility that the hairs, found on a pair of pliers on the boat, came from Scott Peterson.

Laci Peterson, eight months pregnant, vanished just before Christmas 2002 from the couple's home in Modesto and later was found dead.

New York City

Clinton out of ICU

Former President Bill Clinton was moved Wednesday from intensive care to a hospital room following his heart surgery, his office said.

Clinton walked with assistance, sat up in bed and sat in a chair while continuing to recover from surgery he had Monday to bypass four severely clogged arteries, the office said in a statement posted on his Web site.

Clinton will continue to recuperate in the hospital for the next several days, his office said.

Hundreds of get-well cards were delivered Wednesday to the former president's Harlem office from members of AmeriCorps, the domestic volunteer program he created in 1994. He's also received bags of mail at the hospital and more than 70,000 messages on his foundation's Web site.

Nebraska

Another judge overrules abortion ban

A third federal judge has ruled the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional, adding judicial weight that some experts say could keep the issue from reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf of Lincoln ruled against the measure Wednesday, saying Congress ignored the most experienced doctors when it determined that the banned procedure would never be necessary to protect the health of the mother -- a finding he called "unreasonable."

His ruling echoed decisions by federal judges in New York and San Francisco. The ban was signed last year by President Bush but was not enforced because the judges agreed to hear challenges in simultaneous nonjury trials.

Indonesia

Blast rocks Jakarta near Australian Embassy

A powerful explosion today near the Australian embassy in Jakarta killed at least three people and wounded many more, officials said.

The source of the 10:15 a.m. blast outside the embassy was not immediately known.

Australia, the United States and several other countries have recently warned that Muslim militants may be planning new attacks in Indonesia. In the same neighborhood last year, 12 people died in a suicide attack on the JW Marriott hotel. In 2002, more than two hundred people died in an attack on two nightclubs on the tourist island of Bali.

An AP photographer on the scene saw at least three dismembered bodies near the scene.

Florida

Bush brings $2 billion in relief for Frances victims

President Bush on Wednesday helped distribute bottled water, bags of ice, food and $2 billion in federal aid to hurricane-battered residents of this vital electoral state.

"We're working as hard as we can to get them the supplies they need. That's what we're here for," Bush said, working shoulder-to-shoulder with brother Jeb, Florida's governor, as he hoisted supplies into a line of waiting cars.

Before leaving the White House, Bush signed a bill allocating the emergency infusion of $2 billion, rushed through the Republican-controlled Congress the night before.

Los Angeles

Study shows dirty air limits children's lung development

New research shows that teenagers who grow up in heavy air pollution have reduced lung capacity, putting them at risk for illness and premature death as adults.

In the longest study to date of pollution's impact on developing lungs, University of Southern California researchers followed children raised in communities around Los Angeles -- some very polluted, some not -- for eight years.

They found about 8 percent of 18-year-olds had lung capacity less than 80 percent of normal, compared with about 1.5 percent of those in communities with the least pollution.

Washington, D.C.

Pentagon to free Guantanamo detainee

Two-and-a-half years after he was captured in Afghanistan and detained by the U.S. military as an "enemy combatant," a prisoner at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been told he will be allowed to go home, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

A three-person military panel determined after reviewing his case that he did not fit the definition of an enemy combatant, Navy Secretary Gordon England told a Pentagon news conference.

England declined to disclose the man's name, nationality or case details. He said the State Department was making arrangements for the man to be returned to his home country within days or weeks.

When pressed, England declined to say that the man had been held by mistake.

"I'm not sure it's that clear cut," he said.



Washington, D.C.

9-11 commission wants 'no-fly' list expanded

The government should check travelers' names against terrorist watch lists before they board passenger trains or cruise ships, the 9-11 commission recommended Wednesday.

Airlines now check their passengers' names against such a list, a responsibility that the Transportation Security Administration plans to assume sometime next year.

Privacy advocates say the government is too secretive about how it puts people on the list and that those who are mistakenly identified as terrorists don't have an effective way of getting off it.

The proposal is one of 94 proposals released Wednesday that expand upon a handful of transportation security improvements the 9-11 commission recommended to Congress in July.

South Africa

Nuclear trafficking charges dropped

Prosecutors dropped all charges without explanation Wednesday against the head of a South African engineering company accused of trafficking in nuclear-related equipment.

Johan Meyer, 53, was arrested last week at his Tradefin Engineering company in Vanderbijlpark and charged with violating South Africa's Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Act and Nuclear Energy Act. He was accused of helping to supply equipment to Libya's now-abandoned nuclear weapons program.

Prosecutor Anton Ackerman refused to comment on media speculation that Meyer cut a deal in exchange for cooperating with investigators.

Officials said Meyer's arrest last week was part of international investigations into the network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program who admitted in February to passing nuclear technology to other countries.

Chile

Pinochet dodges questions about missing

Lawyers for Gen. Augusto Pinochet moved Wednesday to prevent questioning of the former dictator by a judge about the disappearance of opponents during his 17-year reign.

Santiago Court of Appeals Judge Juan Guzman had ordered Pinochet to be questioned today.

But Wednesday, the Santiago Court of Appeals agreed to consider a request filed hours earlier by Pinochet's lawyers for the removal of Guzman from the case for allegedly showing "animosity" toward the 88-year-old former ruler.

While the court considers the request, the case will be taken away from Guzman, effectively preventing him from questioning Pinochet, and transferred to another judge. The court has no deadline for a ruling.

The other judge, Gabriela Perez, could question Pinochet at any time. But she would need days to study hundreds of pages about the issue.

Paris

Students defying ban on head scarves

Some 100 to 120 girls have defied France's ban on Islamic head scarves in school, the education minister said Wednesday, and at least five boys from the country's tiny Sikh community have been barred from class for not removing their turbans.

The defiant girls are in talks with school officials trying to persuade them to remove the head coverings, said Education Minister Francois Fillon.

When classes resumed, Fillon cited 70 cases of defiance but that did not take into account a batch of students returning to school for the first time Friday.

The law, which forbids conspicuous religious symbols and apparel in public schools, calls for a period of dialogue for those who fail to comply. If students do not agree to follow the new law during the discussions, which can last several weeks, measures are taken to expel them.

Tokyo

At least 32 killed in stormy weather

Japan's coast guard on Wednesday found five more bodies from an Indonesian cargo ship that ran aground during a powerful typhoon that killed at least 32 people and injured hundreds.

The tropical storm, which was downgraded Wednesday from a typhoon after losing some of its devastating force, was centered at the northern tip of Hokkaido island and headed northwest with sustained winds of up to 67 mph.

As much as 8 inches of rain was forecast for Hokkaido and other areas of northern Japan through Wednesday night, the Meteorological Agency said.

Typhoon Songda carved a path of destruction Tuesday along the country's western coast, leaving about 1.6 million households without power, demolishing 27 homes and flooding 1,458 buildings, Japanese media said.

South Korea

North Korea warns of 'nuclear arms race'

North Korea accused the United States of applying a double standard on the Korean Peninsula and warned Wednesday of a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia following the revelation that South Korean scientists enriched a tiny amount of uranium in 2000.

The controversy over the South Korean experiment threatened to further disrupt troubled efforts to persuade North Korea to dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea's envoy to the United Nations, Han Sung Ryol, told South Korea's national news agency Yonhap that the communist state found the United States "worthless" as a dialogue partner because it was applying "double standards" to the two Koreas.

Han called South Korea's uranium enrichment experiment "a dangerous move that would accelerate a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia," Yonhap said.

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