- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

Venezuelans to close shops in protest
CARACAS, Venezuela Stores will close and public transportation will be idle today as Venezuelan business leaders stage a nationwide strike to urge President Hugo Chavez to compromise on economic legislation.
Labor unions and many newspapers also will join the 12-hour shutdown in what could be the biggest challenge to Mr. Chavez since he rose to power three years ago, promising social improvement for the poor.
Mr. Chavez insists the legislation will bring justice to the poor, but business leaders say it will discourage investment by threatening private property and tightening state control on industries, including the oil, agriculture and fishing sectors.
The work stoppage comes at a time when Mr. Chavez's popularity is sliding due to discontent with rising crime and rampant unemployment.

Ebola outbreak confirmed in Gabon
GENEVA An outbreak of fever in the west African nation of Gabon has been confirmed as the deadly disease Ebola, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.
It is the world's first documented outbreak of Ebola since last year, when 224 people including health workers died of the virus in Uganda. Ebola is one of the most virulent viral diseases known to humankind, causing death in 50 percent to 90 percent of clinically ill cases.
"It's been confirmed by a laboratory in Gabon," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told the Associated Press. "We've had reports that seven people have died."
Hartl said that the WHO already has sent a team to help the coastal nation, and a second team of four specialists would leave for Gabon today.

Belgian officials probe eight refugee deaths
BRUSSELS Refugees found dead in a shipping container in Ireland may have planned to take the much shorter sea voyage to Britain but made a fatal mistake with the container, a Belgian official said yesterday.
Eight refugees, including three children, were found dead in the container on Saturday by a truck driver delivering office furniture to a business park near Wexford in southern Ireland. Five survivors are in serious condition in the hospital.
Officials in Belgium, where the container was loaded on the ship bound for Ireland, are investigating how and where the refugees got into the container and are seeking to track down people who may have helped them. No arrests have been made so far.

France criticizes Italy over European warrant
PARIS France said yesterday that Italy was making a "real mistake" in blocking the creation of an EU-wide arrest warrant that would end legal battles about extradition.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said Rome's resistance was "a real problem for us and a real mistake for Italy" in comments to two French media outlets. Asked whether the 14 other EU nations could forge ahead with their own pan-European warrant without Italy, Mr. Vedrine replied, "It's not out of the question."
Right-wing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose company Fininvest owns a private Spanish television station, is currently the subject of an investigation by a Spanish judge.

Jennifer Lopez dazzles U.S. troops in Germany
RAMSTEIN, Germany Latin actress-singer Jennifer Lopez swept into Germany to boost the morale of U.S. troops supporting the anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan, giving a rousing performance that had soldiers dancing atop tanks and aircraft.
Rounding up the end of her European promotion tour, "J. Lo" was joined by performers Kid Rock and Ja Rule in a two-and-a-half-hour show at the Ramstein base in southwestern Germany. The show was sponsored by music channel MTV.
"Having her here is like having a one-woman humanitarian drop," MTV host Carson Daly said to shouts of approval from the troops, many of whom are involved in the preparing and dropping of aid packages over Afghanistan.

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