In Brief


November 20, 2008|By FROM SUN NEWS SERVICES

Congo rebels withdraw from front lines

RWINDI, Congo: Rebels in Congo pulled hundreds of fighters back from several front-line positions as promised yesterday in what the United Nations said was a welcome step toward brokering peace in the volatile nation. Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda told U.N. envoy Olusegun Obasanjo over the weekend that he was committed to a cease-fire and U.N. peace efforts. Rebels announced Tuesday that their fighters would immediately withdraw 25 miles from hot spots north of Goma to prevent further fighting. U.N. peacekeeping spokesman Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich confirmed yesterday's pullback and called it "a positive step." The pullback could pave the way for talks on ending the crisis, which has forced nearly 300,000 people from their homes since August.

Astronaut promises not to lose more tools

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.: The astronaut who lost her tool bag on a spacewalk admitted yesterday that she made a mistake by not checking to see whether the sack was tied down and said she's still smarting over the whole thing. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper said in an interview that it was "very disheartening" to lose her bag full of tools. She was trying to clean up grease that had oozed out of a grease gun in the backpack-size bag, when the tote and everything in it floated away Tuesday. The bag was one of the largest items ever lost by a spacewalking astronaut. She noted there were three more spacewalks and promised not to let the mistake happen again. The next spacewalk is today.

Al-Qaida statement insults Obama

WASHINGTON: In a propaganda salvo by al-Qaida aimed at undercutting the enthusiasm of Muslims worldwide about the U.S. presidential election, Osama bin Laden's top deputy condemned President-elect Barack Obama as a "house Negro" who would continue a campaign against Islam that al-Qaida's leaders said was begun by President George W. Bush. Appealing to the "weak and oppressed" around the world, the al-Qaida deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a video released yesterday that the "new face" of America only masked a "heart full of hate." For years, al-Qaida sought to fuel anti-Americanism with prolific audio and video recordings vilifying Bush as an American "crusader" against Muslim nations. The election of Obama, a black man whose father was from a Muslim family and who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, has muddied al-Qaida's message.

Debate on security pact becomes yelling match

BAGHDAD: An attempt to open debate on a pact allowing U.S. troops to stay in Iraq through 2011 degenerated into a yelling match in Parliament here yesterday, casting doubt on Iraqi and U.S. officials' hopes of easy passage. Iraqi legislators were to try again today to discuss the security agreement. The discord does not bode well for passage by Nov. 25, when lawmakers are expected to begin a nearly monthlong break. If the pact is not approved by the end of the year, it would leave U.S. forces without legal standing to be in Iraq come Jan. 1.

Texas court to arraign Cheney, Gonzales

RAYMONDVILLE, Texas: A Texas judge has set an arraignment for Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and other officials accused of involvement in prisoner abuse. Presiding Judge Manuel Banales said yesterday that he will allow them to waive arraignment or have attorneys present rather than appear in person tomorrow. Banales also said he would issue summonses, not warrants. That allows them to avoid arrest and the need to post bond. Willacy County District Attorney Juan Guerra accuses Cheney, Gonzales, a state senator and others of involvement in prisoner abuse at a federal detention center in south Texas.

Penguin probably hunted to extinction

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Researchers studying a rare and endangered species of penguin have uncovered evidence of a previously unknown species that disappeared about 500 years ago. The research suggests that the first humans in New Zealand hunted the newly found Waitaha penguin to extinction by 1500, about 250 years after their arrival on the islands. But the loss of the Waitaha allowed a yellow-eyed species to thrive, Philip Seddon of Otago University, a co-author of the study, said yesterday in the biological research journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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