A powerful bomb exploded in a crowded outdoor market in the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz, killing 53 people and wounding 100. Vladikavkaz, the capital of the North Ossetia region, is about 50 km from the breakaway region of Chechnya. That area has been hit by a wave of violence and lawlessness in recent years associated with crime as well as political and ethnic unrest.
DEADLY CASTE VIOLENCE
Gunmen from a radical communist group gathered at least 33 villagers in India’s Bihar state, bound them and beheaded them in a caste massacre. Police suspect the attack against an upper-caste village was carried out by the predominantly lower-caste group locked in bitter land battles with the upper caste.
BALLOON CIRCLES GLOBE
After 19 days in the air, Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Briton Brian Jones became the first to pilot a hot-air balloon around the world. Their Breitling Orbiter 3 completed the 42,647-km nonstop circumnavigation early Saturday morning, and they were expected to land in Egypt on Sunday. Piccard, a psychiatrist, used selfhypnosis at times to handle the pressures of the exhausting voyage, and taught the technique to Jones.
BOESAK GUILTY OF THEFT
A judge in Cape Town found Allan Boesak, a leading anti-apartheid activist, guilty of stealing aid money from foreign donors, including $110,000 of $305,000 that U.S. singer Paul Simon had given to aid a children’s charity. Convicted of fraud and theft involving $450,000, Boesak was to be sentenced this week. Prosecutors said Boesak used the donations to fund a flamboyant lifestyle.
TRAFFICKING IN ORGANS
Egyptian prosecutors are investigating reports that an orphanage near Cairo sold the organs of some of its children to hospitals that cater to wealthy Gulf Arabs. The legislators, who say government officials may have been involved, allege that organs from at least 32 children were sold for up to $30,000 each to major hospitals. Twenty-five of the children subsequently died, they said, and some of the death certificates may have been forged.
A troubled truce
The deadline is largely symbolic, but pressure is mounting on Northern Ireland’s Protestant and Catholic politicians to meet it. The United States, Britain and Ireland are pushing political leaders in the factionridden province to make the compromises necessary to form a 12-member, power-sharing government before the April 2 anniversary of the so-called Good Friday peace accord. But tensions are running high since the March 15 murder of Catholic human rights lawyer
Rosemary Nelson in the town of Lurgan, about 50 km southwest of Belfast. A pro-British paramilitary group, the Red Hand Defenders, claimed responsibility for the car bomb that killed the 40-year-old mother of three just a few metres from the school playground where her eight-yearold daughter was eating lunch.
The peace process suffered another blow when rioting erupted between Protestants and Catholics in nearby Portadown on St. Patrick’s Day. At the same time, several political leaders responsible for implementing the Good Friday accord were in Washington. President Bill Clinton met separately with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, the elected leader of the new government, and Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army’s political wing. Trimble is refusing to form an administration with Adams until the IRA has been disarmed. Adams, on the other hand, says the IRA will not disarm as long as his party is barred from office. Clinton urged the leaders to keep their eye on “that distant horizon when children will grow up in an Ireland trouble-free and not even remember how it used to be.” After last week’s events, that day may be a long way off.
Clinton versus Starr
The long-running battle between U.S. President Bill Clinton and independent counsel Kenneth Starr shows no signs of ending soon. Last week, a federal appeal court authorized the U.S. justice department to
investigate charges that Starr’s prosecutors acted improperly while questioning former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in mid-January, 1998. Meanwhile, Starr’s deputy, Hickman Ewing, revealed that he considered indicting Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1996 due to statements she made in an investigation of the
Clintons’ money-losing Whitewater real estate project. Ewing was testifying at the Little Rock, Ark., trial of Susan McDougal, the Clinton business partner charged with contempt for refusing to answer questions about Whitewater. At the same time, Starr’s office disclosed that its Whitewater probe will continue.
Eurocrats resign in shame
The leaders of the 15 member nations of the European Union assemble in Berlin this week to confront one of the most serious crises of the EU’s 42-year history. On March 16, all 20 commissioners resigned following an auditor’s report that found evidence of corruption and financial irregularities. The commissioners, appointed from member countries for
five-year terms and paid more than $300,000 annually, manage the EU’s $100-billion budget and a bureaucracy of 17,000 people. Auditors appointed by the 626-member European Parliament declared that it was “becoming difficult to find [a commissioner] who has even the slightest sense of responsibility.”
The auditors discovered about $1 billion in question-
able spending, which included awarding jobs and lucrative consulting contracts to unqualified friends and family members. EU leaders were divided over whether to appoint new commissioners immediately or wait until after June elections to the European Parliament. But many agreed they must replace outgoing president Jacques Sanier, 61, of Luxembourg, with a stronger, more credible leader.
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