April 14 1997


April 14 1997




A rift emerged in Albanian President Sali Berisha’s rightist party as about 20 members accused him of seizing too much power. The political infighting adds to the trouble facing an Italian-led peace force of up to 6,000 troops that will begin operations in the rebelliontorn country on April 14 to protect aid shipments. Tensions with Italy rose after up to 80 Albanian refugees drowned when their ship collided with an Italian navy vessel.


As Zairean government and rebel envoys headed to negotiations in South Africa, newly appointed Prime Minister Etienne Tshisekedi offered rebels six cabinet seats in a provisional government. But rebel leader Laurent Kabila’s forces said they would not stop advancing while President Mobutu Sese Seko remains in power. Top international aid officials issued an urgent joint appeal to help thousands of starving refugees trapped by the conflict.


Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Germany’s longest-serving leader since Otto von Bismarck last century, said he intends to run for a fifth term in 1998. Kohl, who oversaw the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, has held office for 14 years, compared with Bismarck’s 19. Kohl cited a “duty” to see his country through an economic crisis and Europe’s planned currency union.


Russia and neighboring Belarus signed a Union Treaty that brings the two former members of the Soviet Union closer together, but falls short of the full merger proposed by impoverished Belarus. The two countries plan to co-ordinate economic reforms and military activities, link energy and transportation systems, and possibly introduce a common currency.


A Spanish village passed a law that gives full status to non-traditional couples, including a brother and sister who have been living together for 18 years and have two children. The siblings were separated in childhood but fell in love as adults after meeting by chance in a discotheque. They chose to continue their relationship even after learning of their shared bloodline.

STRAWBERRY SO ARE* A four-year-old Los Angeles boy gets a

gamma globulin shot as part of an effort to inoculate thousands of children who ate school desserts containing Mexican-grown strawberries tainted with the hepatitis A virus. Nearly 200 kids were reported sick in southern Michigan; five other states were affected. A Canadian health inspector said frozen strawberries from the same source went to British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick in 1996, but were used in baking, which kills the virus.The disease carries flu-like symptoms but is rarely fatal.

The Heaven's Gate cult lives on

It was bound to happen: barely a week after 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cyber-cult committed suicide, an American network

announced that it plans to air a made-for-television movie based on their story. ABC Television signed a deal for a movie that will centre on Richard Ford, also known as Rio D’Angelo, a 43-year-old former cult member who discovered the bodies inside a mansion in the wealthy San Diego suburb of Rancho Santé Fe on March 26. Officials, meanwhile, said they were winding down their investigation into the mass suicide by followers of Marshall Herff Applewhite, 66. He taught that members of Heaven’s

Gate could free themselves from their bodies (or “vehicles”) and ascend to heaven in a UFO lurking behind the comet Hale-Bopp.

However outlandish those beliefs, officials said it appeared that no laws were broken when the cult members killed themselves, mostly by ingesting barbiturates chased by vodka. But some former members cautioned that other suicides may follow. They warned that other North American believers in Heaven’s Gate—estimated at anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred—continue to prepare for the arrival of a UFO to transport them to what they call “the level above human.”

Axworthy goes softly, softly in China

Ottawa will pursue “long-term and incremental” diplomacy on human rights abuses in China, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy said after meeting Chinese Premier Li Peng in Beijing. Despite his reputation for activism on the issue, Axworthy said he believes a quiet approach is more productive than confrontation with China, which has jailed or exiled virtually all dissidents. By contrast, U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich lashed out at China’s human rights record while visiting last week, saying Beijing’s democratic rival Taiwan should be its model. He declared that U.S. troops would defend Taiwan if China tried to take the island by force.