WORLD

World NOTES

July 27 1998
WORLD

World NOTES

July 27 1998

World NOTES

WORLD

A WIN FOR STARR

U.S. Chief Justice William Renquist ruled that Secret Service agents who protect President Bill Clinton must testify before a grand jury probe of his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and the possible obstruction of justice. Renquist upheld lower court decisions requiring the agents to co-operate with special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. The White House had argued that violating the President’s privacy could endanger his future security.

HEATWAVE TRAGEDY

Four children died after they accidentally locked themselves in the trunk of the family car in Gallup, N.M., while the temperature outside was 37° C. When relatives noticed that the children, aged 2 to 6, were missing, they drove the car for an hour looking for them. A heat wave across the southern states killed at least 55 people, mostly elderly and infirm people without air conditioning.

NIGERIA FREES PRISONERS

Nigerian military ruler Abdulsalam Abubakar ordered the immediate release of hundreds of political prisoners, which he said was a gesture to show he intends to follow through with plans to restore rights and democracy. The move came a week after the death of opposition leader Mashood Abiola plunged the country into turmoil.

THALIDOMIDE'S RETURN

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave approval for thalidomide, the notorious drug that caused horrific birth defects around the world decades ago, to be used in treating leprosy. Thalidomide, used as an anti-nausea drug for pregnant women, was banned in the 1960s after causing 12,000 babies worldwide to be born with no limbs or flipper-like arms and legs, serious facial deformities and defective organs.

TAINTED-BLOOD CHARGES

Former French premier Laurent Fabius and two of his ex-ministers were ordered to stand trial for manslaughter in connection with the distribution of AIDS-tainted blood. Some 1,250 hemophiliacs were infected by blood products supplied by the state in the 1980s. More than 400 have died. Four senior public health officials received prison sentences in 1992.

BURYING HISTORY: Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his wife bow as the remains of Czar Nicholas II and his family are readied for burial in a cathedral in St. Petersburg, exactly 80 years after the royals were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries on July 17, 1918.Yeltsin decided at the last minute to attend the ceremony, which deeply divided the country. Many Russians—including the Orthodox Church hierarchy, which sent only middle-level priests to officiate—doubt the authenticity of the remains, despite seven years of DNA tests by international experts. Many, too, still dislike the czar.Yeltsin, however, called for Russians to end the century in “repentance and reconciliation.”

The birth of a new world court

Delegates to a Rome conference erupted into cheers and applause when a historic treaty creating the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal won approval by a vote of 120-7, with 21 abstaining. Earlier, many delegates hugged and kissed each other as an American bid to undermine the package was defeated 113-17, with 25 abstentions. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, summoned to Rome to help rally support for the court, said just before the final ballot that the votes seemed to be there. “The starting gates have been opened,” Axworthy said. “This is a very crucial link in the whole broad movement

to redesign humanitarian law at the end of this century, and this is a very essential piece of it.” The International Criminal Court, to be based in The Hague once 60 countries ratify the agreement, is to be composed of 18 judges from different countries. They are to be empowered to try cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression, even when the international community is divided over a conflict. The judges will be able to issue arrest warrants and summonses to appear before them. But countries signing the treaty may exempt themselves from the court’s jurisdiction over war crimes for seven years.

A likely life sentence for phone-booth killer

A jury recommended a life sentence for a Florida man convicted of murdering a Belleville, Ont., teen who was vacationing in Daytona Beach on his 1996 spring break. The family of 18-yearold victim Mark Fyke said they were satisfied with the penalty, although six of the 12 Florida jurors originally wanted death for killer John Rainey, 19. Fyke’s parents brought the jury to tears by showing family photos and describing their torment since Rainey shot their son in the head, execution-style, just moments after he called home to his mother from a public telephone booth. The Canadian had only $17 in his wallet. A judge will pronounce sentence on Aug. 14.