Bush opens trip with discussions on Japanese economy
TOKYO — President Bush, concerned about Japan’s recession-wracked economy, opened a three-nation Asian tour Sunday urging embattled Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to follow through on long-promised economic reforms.
Seeking a delicate balance, the U.S. president was publicly embracing Koizumi and his agenda while privately prodding the prime minister to take the painful steps toward reversing a decade-long economic slump, aides said. Bush hopes his support will tame Koizumi’s critics.
Key to stability in Asia, Japan has solidly supported the U.S. campaign against terrorism.
After a seven-hour flight from Alaska, the president and first lady Laura Bush stepped off Air Force One and into a cold drizzle late Sunday afternoon.
Communist rebels in Nepal kill 129
KATMANDU, Nepal — Communist rebels killed at least 129 police, soldiers and civilians in unprecedented attacks in northwestern Nepal Sunday, undermining prospects for peace in this poor Himalayan kingdom still recovering from the shock of a massacre at the royal palace last year.
The attacks on government offices and an airport were the deadliest since the rebels began fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy in 1996 from remote mountain areas in this land of exquisite beauty but violent politics.
The rebels, who draw their inspiration from Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Tse-tung, had abandoned peace talks and ended a cease-fire in November, saying negotiations had produced no results. The government declared a state of emergency three days later.
Georgia community struggles with task of identifying bodies
NOBLE, Ga. — Distraught families began the wrenching task of trying to identify loved ones Sunday in this rural community where dozens of decomposing corpses were being removed from a crematory.
Authorities said they had recovered 97 bodies — including one infant — from storage sheds and scattered in woods behind Tri-State Crematory in this hamlet about 25 miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn.
The final toll is expected to be at least 200, said Dr. Kris Sperry, Georgia’s chief medical examiner. Sixteen people have been identified so far. The discoveries began Friday when a woman walking her dog found a skull.
“We’re just barely skimming the surface,” Sperry said. “Some of the remains are mummified.”
Gov. Roy Barnes declared a state of emergency Saturday so local officials could receive state assistance. He visited Noble Sunday afternoon and had a private meeting with about a hundred people who believed their loved ones were at the crematory.
Afghan leader vows stern justice for
aviation minister’s assassins
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan leader Hamid Karzai on Sunday vowed stern justice for high-ranking officials in his own government who he said assassinated the country’s aviation minister.
Karzai has blamed the minister’s death on a personal vendetta among government officials despite initial reports that said he was killed by a mob of Muslim pilgrims furious over flight delays to Saudi Arabia.
This year’s hajj — the annual pilgrimage to Mecca — has become a source of contention as the government tries to restore order in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
Thousands of Afghans are unable to make the journey because of a lack of flights and, in the case of a U.S.-controlled airport in southern Afghanistan, delays in repairing bomb-damaged runways.
Britain, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia sent planes to pick up thousands of pilgrims. Bad weather caused some of those planes to be diverted to the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Karachi, Karzai said.
Israeli army objectors spark national debate on 35-year occupation, limits of protest
JERUSALEM (AP) — It began with a modest act of defiance: In newspaper ads, 52 Israeli reserve soldiers declared last month they would no longer serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Their number has since more than quadrupled, and has sparked a passionate debate in Israel about the limits of legitimate protest.
For many Israelis, the soldiers’ accounts of acts of random brutality toward Palestinian civilians have also added a new urgency to resolving Israel’s most burning problem — what to do with the territories conquered in 1967.
The protest has reinvigorated an Israeli peace camp cast adrift by the collapse of peace talks and almost 17 months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. It is now regrouping under the slogan “Get out of the territories,” with many advocating a unilateral Israeli withdrawal rather than waiting for a peace deal that may never materialize.
Lawyer told Enron how to deal with employees who report allegations
WASHINGTON (AP) — An attorney at Enron Corp.’s outside law firm advised the company’s in-house legal counsel on how to handle employees who questioned Enron’s accounting practices, a lawmaker leading one of the congressional investigations of the company said Sunday.
Days before the lawyer’s Aug. 24 correspondence, Enron executive Sherron Watkins had delivered a memo to then-company chairman Kenneth Lay, warning him about what she considered dubious accounting activities.
“They’re asking the lawyers ... what happens if we fire her?” said Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
“It’s the ultimate in skullduggery,” said Ken Johnson, spokesman for the House committee.
Skating scandal overshadows history-making Olympic week
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Picabo Street competed in her last Olympic race, Americans went 1-2-3 in a winter event for the first time in 46 years and a snowboarder who had a liver transplant won a bronze medal.
Who knew, right?
While the world was absorbed with a skating dispute that will forever stain these games, 2,500 other athletes went on with the show — their Olympic moments overshadowed by scandal.
Now that Canadian skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier finally have their gold, athletes and fans have but one plea as the games enter their final week: Move on!
The controversy consumed the first half of the Olympics, beginning with Monday night’s pairs competition when the Russians narrowly won the gold medal over the Canadians.
After a week of dueling news conferences, behind-the-scenes investigations and, finally, charges that a French judge was pressured to vote for the Russians, the IOC on Friday awarded the gold to the Canadians as well.
‘John Q’ goes public with No. 1 debut at movie theaters
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Denzel Washington, fresh off his latest Oscar nomination, found a captive audience at theaters as “John Q” debuted as the top weekend film.
Starring Washington as a desperate dad who holds an emergency room hostage to secure a heart transplant for his dying son, the movie took in $20.6 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Britney Spears had a solid big-screen premiere in “Crossroads,” avoiding the box-office pitfalls encountered by some pop stars — notably Mariah Carey with “Glitter” — when they cross over to film. “Crossroads” was No. 2 with $14.6 million.
Disney’s animated “Return to Never Land,” a sequel to its classic “Peter Pan,” opened in third place with $11.8 million.
Bruce Willis’ “Hart’s War,” a World War II POW drama, had a so-so opening of $8.3 million, coming in at No. 7. The weekend’s other new movie, the police parody “Super Troopers,” tied “Black Hawk Down” for No. 8 with $6.2 million.