- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

IRAQ

American soldier sentenced in killings

VILSECK, Germany | An American soldier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder and was sentenced to seven months in prison Thursday in the deaths of four Iraqis, saying he stood guard from a machine-gun turret while the bound men were shot.

The relatively lenient sentence for Spc. Belmor Ramos was part of a deal that will have him testify against others purported to have been involved in the killings last year.

The four Iraqi men were bound, blindfolded, shot in the head and dumped in a Baghdad canal between March 10 and April 16, 2007 - killings that prosecutors said were in retribution for casualties in Ramos’ unit at the time.

Ramos, of Clearfield, Utah, told a judge at his court-martial that he stood guard as the men were killed. In the stark Rose Barracks courtroom, the 23-year-old testified that he didn’t have to go along with the others, but that he wanted to.

CHINA

Poisoned babies rushed to hospital

SHIJIAZHUANG | Thousands of parents anxious about tainted baby milk powder rushed their infants to hospitals for health checks Thursday and the government said a fourth child has died in the scandal that has engulfed one-fifth of the nation’s formula makers.

Twenty percent of Chinese companies that produce milk powder have been found with products tainted by the banned industrial chemical melamine, including the two biggest dairies. More than 6,000 babies have been sickened by the tainted formula.

Melamine - used in plastics, fertilizers and flame retardants - has no nutritional value but is high in nitrogen, making products appear higher in protein. It is a way to cut costs for the manufacturer.

At the Beijing Children’s Hospital, more than 1,000 parents waited for checkups as they carried their sleeping infants and toddlers. By 2 p.m., doctors had seen only half of the 1,200 who waited in line.

Melamine that was used by pet food companies in China poisoned dogs in the United States earlier this year.

MEXICO

Police kill 19 prison inmates

TIJUANA | Hundreds of anxious families waited outside Tijuana’s infamous La Mesa State Penitentiary for word on their loved ones Thursday after police fatally shot 19 prisoners to regain control of the facility.

Wednesday’s riot was the second deadly melee in three days at the prison just across the U.S. border from San Diego.

About 12 people were injured Wednesday and two remain in critical condition, said Agustin Perez, spokesman of the Public Safety Secretary’s office, which oversees prisons in Mexico’s state of Baja California.

Blaming prison troublemakers for the uprisings that killed a total of 23 inmates, state authorities immediately transferred 250 inmates to other prisons in Tecate and Ensenada.

But relatives of the inmates say they rioted because they had not been given food or water since the previous riot on Sunday.

SWITZERLAND

Transformer breaks on atom smasher

GENEVA | The world’s largest particle collider malfunctioned within hours of its launch to great fanfare, but its operator didn’t report the problem for a week.

In a statement Thursday, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, reported for the first time that a 30-ton transformer that cools part of the collider broke, forcing physicists to stop using the atom smasher just a day after starting it up last week.

The faulty transformer has been replaced and the ring in the 17-mile circular tunnel under the Swiss-French border has been cooled back down to near zero on the Kelvin scale - minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit - the most efficient operating temperature, the organization said.

CERN had not reported any problems with the project since its launch Sept. 10 but issued its statement shortly after the Associated Press called asking about rumors of troubles.

SOUTH AFRICA

Ruling party mulls replacing Mbeki

CAPE TOWN | South Africa’s ruling party may decide to force the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki at a meeting this weekend amid mounting political turmoil in the continent’s powerhouse.

Mr. Mbeki is due to stand down next year after two terms in office, but there is growing pressure from supporters of his former deputy, Jacob Zuma, to dismiss Mr. Mbeki and call early elections.

The ruling African National Congress’ top-level National Executive Committee, many of whom are Zuma loyalists, meets this weekend to consider the way forward.

Mr. Zuma, who is in line to run for president next year and will likely ride his party’s dominance to power, has long claimed that he was the victim of a political vendetta orchestrated by Mr. Mbeki.

DENMARK

Six convicted over militant T-shirts

COPENHAGEN | Six people who tested Denmark’s anti-terror law by selling T-shirts to raise money for Colombian guerrillas and Palestinian militants were convicted Thursday of violating the statute.

The defendants were associated with a Danish company that sold the T-shirts on the Internet with the acronyms FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Both groups are considered terrorist organizations by the European Union and the United States.

Denmark’s Eastern High Court convicted them of violating the country’s anti-terror law and sentenced five employees of the company, Fighters and Lovers, to between 60 days and six months in prison after they admitted producing, selling and distributing the T-shirts. A sixth defendant got 60 days for allowing the company to use his server for the company Web site.

A seventh defendant, a hot-dog vendor, was acquitted. He had put up posters in his stand to promote the T-shirts.

PAKISTAN

Prime minister hits U.S. raids

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan’s prime minister said Thursday that strikes by foreign forces were “counterproductive,” as officials said there was no warning about the latest suspected U.S. missile strike in the Pakistani northwest.

In his statement, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani did not specifically mention Wednesday’s missile strike, though he spoke generally of strikes by foreign forces as being “counterproductive.”

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the prime minister, army chief and other officials Wednesday. The U.S. Embassy said he “reiterated the U.S. commitment to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and to develop further U.S.-Pakistani cooperation.”

Meanwhile, militants briefly seized 300 boys at a school in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, police said. The incident ended with the deaths of two suicide bombers; no children were harmed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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