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Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Briefly

June 15, 2005

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Aruba

Search for missing teen yields no new clues

Police searching for a missing Alabama teenager came up empty-handed again Tuesday despite new information from a former security guard who said three young men in custody may have lied about what happened the night she disappeared.

Antonius "Mickey" John, who was released from jail Monday, said he was detained in a cell adjacent to one of the young men and that the two spent time talking.

John, 30, said 21-year-old Deepak Kalpoe told him that he, his younger brother and their Dutch friend never returned to the Holiday Inn the morning of May 30, the day Natalee Holloway disappeared on this Dutch Caribbean island.

Instead, Kalpoe said they dropped the Dutch youth and Holloway off near the Marriott, about 10 blocks north of the Holiday Inn, John said. The area being searched, Malmok beach, neighboring the Marriott's Palm Beach, is a popular spot for picnics and family gatherings by day and is favored by lovers at night.

South Africa

Deputy president dismissed from post

President Thabo Mbeki fired his deputy and heir apparent Tuesday after he was implicated in a corruption scandal, throwing open the question who will become the next leader of South Africa.

Jacob Zuma, 63, who enjoyed widespread support among the population and trade union movement, had been groomed to take over the helm of Africa's economic and diplomatic powerhouse when Mbeki steps down in 2009.

But Mbeki told a special joint session of Parliament that a high court judge's ruling that Zuma had a "generally corrupt" relationship with his financial adviser required him to dismiss his deputy from his post and from the Cabinet.

Zuma said he accepted his dismissal, even though he maintains he has done no wrong. "All of us should put national unity above everything else," he told a news conference. "Our freedom and democracy are more important than us as individuals."

Afghanistan

Capital on verge of cholera epidemic

An outbreak of cholera in the Afghan capital has killed at least eight people, is feared to have infected more than 2,000 others and is on the verge of turning into an epidemic, an epidemiologist working to stem the spread of the disease warned Tuesday.

"An epidemic is about to break out here," said Fred Hartman, an epidemiologist and technical director for a U.S. Agency for International Development-backed program, the Rural Expansion of Afghanistan's Community-based Health Care. "Cholera is an explosive disease. As soon as water sources are contaminated, it spreads."

The disease has been detected in wells, the source of drinking water for most of Kabul's 4 million residents, and irrigation ditches, while more than 2,000 sick people have been reported with symptoms that "meet the case definition of cholera," said Hartman, who has combatted outbreaks of the disease around the world for 30 years and has been directly involved with efforts to contain it in Afghanistan.

Cholera is a major killer in developing countries. The bacterium attacks the intestine and causes severe diarrhea and dehydration.

Zimbabwe

Police demolish thousands of shacks

Police say they have razed more than 20,000 shacks and other structures in what President Robert Mugabe calls an urban cleanup campaign - but what critics at home and abroad have decried as an assault on the poor.

Police Supt. Oliver Mandipaka, quoted Tuesday in a government newspaper, said that 21,194 "illegal structures" had been demolished nationwide, and 32,435 people arrested since "Operation Murambatsvina" - drive out trash - began May 19.

"The operation continues until we have weeded out all criminal elements countrywide," Mandipaka told The Herald.

Zimbabwean clerics, doctors, teachers and human rights lawyers have called the mass evictions and arrests of street traders a crime against the poor. The human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the government's actions and the United Nations has called them a clear violation of human rights.

Thousands of people who apparently have nowhere else to go are living amid the ruins of their bulldozed homes in the winter chill.

United Nations

New memos surface in oil-for-food probe

The committee probing the U.N. oil-for-food program announced Tuesday it will again investigate Secretary-General Kofi Annan after two e-mails suggested he may have known more than he claimed about a multimillion-dollar U.N. contract awarded to the company that employed his son.

One e-mail described an encounter between Annan and officials from Cotecna Inspections S.A. in late 1998 during which the Swiss company's bid for the contract was raised. The second from the same Cotecna executive expressed his confidence that the company would get the bid because of "effective but quiet lobbying" in New York diplomatic circles.

If accurate, the new details would cast doubt on a major finding the U.N.-backed Independent Inquiry Committee made in March - that there wasn't enough evidence to show that Annan knew about efforts by Cotecna, which employed his son Kojo, to win the Iraq oil-for-food contract. The Associated Press obtained the e-mails Tuesday.

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