- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2009

CANADA

Two sect leaders arrested on polygamy

VANCOUVER, British Columbia | Two top leaders of a polygamous community in western Canada have been arrested and charged with practicing polygamy, British Columbia’s attorney general said Wednesday.

Attorney General Wally Oppal said Winston Blackmore is charged with marrying 20 women, while James Oler is accused of marrying two women.

Mr. Blackmore, long known as “the Bishop of Bountiful,” runs an independent sect of about 400 members in the town of Bountiful. He once ran the Canadian arm of the Utah-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but was ejected in 2003 by that group’s leader, Warren Jeffs.

Mr. Oler is the bishop of Bountiful’s FLDS community loyal to Jeffs.

FLDS members practice polygamy in arranged marriages, a tradition tied to the early theology of the Mormon church. Mormons renounced polygamy in 1890 as a condition of Utah’s statehood.

SRI LANKA

Tamil Tigers return to terrorist list

COLOMBO | Sri Lanka hit the Tamil Tigers on Wednesday with a terrorist designation it lifted as part of an ill-fated 2002 truce, as soldiers pressured the separatists’ last stronghold on the Jaffna Peninsula.

Though largely symbolic since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are already on terrorist lists in the United States the European Union and India and the government routinely calls them terrorists, the Cabinet vote is just one more sign that Sri Lanka has no plans to negotiate.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had given the LTTE until the new year to free civilians, which rights group say the rebels are keeping as human shields and using as fighters or battlefield laborers. The LTTE denies that.

The original ban was imposed on the Tigers in January 1998, and lifted as part of a Norway-brokered truce four years later. Mr. Rajapaksa scrapped the poorly observed truce a year ago, accusing the LTTE of using it to rearm and vowing to eliminate them.

CHINA

Bird flu death prompts alert

YANJIAO | China issued a bird flu alert Wednesday after a woman died of the virus, the first such death in the country in almost a year, and closed poultry markets for disinfecting in a province surrounding Beijing.

The World Health Organization said the woman’s death, China’s 21st to date, appeared to be an isolated case.

The 19-year-old died of the H5N1 virus after gutting nine ducks, which health specialists say highlights the role and risks of waterfowl in the transmission of the virus to humans.

In Yanjiao in Hebei province, where the dead woman had bought the ducks, poultry markets were closed and the sale of live birds stopped as workers in masks and white coats sprayed disinfectant.

NORTH KOREA

Overdue elections slated for March

SEOUL | North Korea announced Wednesday that it will hold long overdue elections in March amid indications the impoverished regime plans to fill parliament with finance-savvy legislators and has named new Cabinet ministers with economic know-how.

With foreign aid drying up amid a global economic crisis and a diplomatic standoff with South Korea, North Korea is turning inward to find a way out of economic hardship, analysts say.

Elections for seats in the Supreme People’s Assembly - postponed last year amid speculation about leader Kim Jong-il’s health - will be held March 8, state-run media said.

The elections, held every five years, last took place in August 2003. North Korea denies the leader was ill.

AFGHANISTAN

U.S. forces kill Taliban bomb makers

KABUL | U.S.-led forces raided a Taliban bomb-making cell in eastern Afghanistan, killing 32 insurgents in a battle with scores of militants who shot at them from rooftops and alleyways, the military said Wednesday.

The firefight broke out Tuesday in Laghman province when as many as 75 armed militants converged on the troops, who were searching several compounds in the area, the military said. The 32 insurgents were killed when coalition troops returned fire.

The troops destroyed two caches of weapons and roadside bomb-making materials that were too unstable to move to another location, the military statement said.

CHINA

Pingpong game marks anniversary

BEIJING | It was the small game of pingpong that got the big ball of diplomacy moving on U.S.-China relations, and on Wednesday, the two countries commemorated 30 years of formal ties with a friendly exhibition game of table tennis.

In 1971, a long-isolated China invited a U.S. table tennis team to visit Beijing - the first friendly overture in decades. The move helped pave the way for a historic visit by President Nixon the subsequent year. Washington and Beijing established formal ties on Jan. 1, 1979.

Among the players Wednesday was the youngest member of the original 1971 American team, Judy Bochenski Hoarfrost, now 50, of Portland, Ore.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, flanked by his Chinese counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya and U.S. Ambassador to China Clark T. Randt, watched Chinese and U.S. players play several matches. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was originally scheduled to attend, but asked Mr. Negroponte to take her place so she could closely follow the Gaza crisis.

GREECE

Finance minister fired in shake-up

ATHENS | Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis fired his finance minister Wednesday in a Cabinet reshuffle to try to shore up his government’s popularity, hit by riots, scandals and economic woes.

Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, 53, was replaced by one of his deputies, Yannis Papathanassiou, 55. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni will stay, the government’s spokesman said.

GERMANY

U.S. soldier charged with executing Iraqis

FRANKFURT | A U.S. soldier charged with murder in the deaths of four bound and blindfolded Iraqis will be court-martialed, the U.S. Army said Wednesday.

Sgt. John E. Hatley was charged in September with one count of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of obstruction of justice in the killings of four Iraqi men who were found bound, blindfolded, shot and dumped in a Baghdad canal in April 2007.

HUNGARY

Gunman kills two during school attack

BUDAPEST | A masked gunman fatally shot the principal and a teacher at a school in the Budapest neighborhood of Csepel.

A Budapest police spokesman said the unidentified gunman shot the two men in the head and also shot a security guard in the hand in Wednesday evening’s attack.

Police said the gunman fled the school after the shootings and they had no information on the motive for the attack.

A reward of 5 million forints, or $25,300, was offered for information leading to the capture of the assailant.

Csepel is on the northern tip of a large island in the Danube River and during the communist regime it was the hub of Budapest’s heavy industry,

ZIMBABWE

7 from opposition charged in bomb plot

HARARE | Seven members of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party were the first of dozens of jailed dissidents to be formally charged Wednesday, and they pleaded not guilty in a bombing plot.

The seven are among rights activists and opposition party members detained in recent weeks in what the opposition calls a crackdown on dissent. They were charged with terrorism, banditry and insurgency, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

They include Gandi Mudzingwa, an adviser to Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai; and Chris Dhlamini, head of security for Mr. Tsvangirai’s party.

The charges stem from two minor blasts in the main Harare police station and a botched bombing of a highway bridge and railroad line west of Harare last year.

In a separate case, another group of detainees has been accused - but so far not formally charged - of attempting to recruit fighters to train in neighboring Botswana to overthrow President Robert Mugabe. Leaders of neighboring countries and international rights groups have said such charges are baseless.

GHANA

New president takes office

ACCRA | Ghana’s new president took office Wednesday following a peaceful but tense election that secured the country’s status as one of the continent’s few stable democracies.

Tens of thousands of people crowded Independence Square for the inauguration of John Atta Mills, the opposition candidate who won the runoff election with 50.23 percent of the vote. It was the closest election in the West African country’s history.

The ruling party candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, had threatened to reject the results but withdrew his court challenges and conceded Saturday.

Mr. Atta Mills, 64, served as vice president under Jerry Rawlings, a former coup leader who stepped down in 2001. He spent much of his career teaching at the University of Ghana. He earned a doctorate from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies before becoming a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University.

GUINEA

Junta arrests officers; U.S. suspends aid

CONAKRY | Washington said Tuesday it was suspending aid to Guinea, hours after the new military junta arrested several generals it had forced into retirement after December’s coup.

The State Department repeated calls for elections and a return to civilian rule.

Earlier Tuesday, the new military junta arrested several of the generals it had forced into retirement after the Dec. 23 coup.

A total of 22 generals were forced into retirement five days after the coup, which was led by Capt. Moussa Camara.

On Wednesday, military sources confirmed the arrest of 16 military officers, including several allies of late President Lansana Conte and three civilians.

Those arrested include former army chief of staff Diarra Camara, former navy chief Ali Daffe and his deputy Adm. Fassiriman Traore.

Immediately after the coup the State Department had warned that Washington would suspend its aid to Guinea, some $15 million this year, if coup leaders did not take steps to return civilian rule.

NIGERIA

Bikers wear fruit instead of helmets

KANO | Police have arrested scores of motorcycle taxi riders with dried fruit shells, paint pots or pieces of rubber tires tied to their heads with string to avoid a new law requiring them to wear helmets.

The regulations have caused chaos around Africa’s most populous nation, with motorcyclists complaining helmets are too expensive and some passengers refusing to wear them, fearing they will catch skin disease or be put under a black magic spell.

The law, which came into force on Jan. 1, pits two factions equally feared by the common motorist against one another: erratic motorcycle taxis known as “Okadas,” whose owners are notorious for road rage, and the bribe-hungry traffic police.

Some bikers have used calabashes - dried shells of pumpkin-sized fruit usually used as a bowl - or pots and pans tied to their heads with string to try to dodge the rules. Construction workers have set up a lucrative trade renting out their safety helmets for around 500 naira ($3.60) a day.

Yusuf Garba, commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission in the northern town of Kano, said six months ago the price of helmets was below 800 naira. Helmet prices have since risen sharply as sellers cash in on demand.

From staff and wire reports

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