2 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesda
Tape shows four
Western civilians taken
hostage by group
BAGHDAD (AP) - Al-Jazeera
broadcast video yesterday of four
Western peace activists held hostage
by a previously unknown group, part
of a new wave of kidnappings police
fear is aimed at disrupting next
The news station said the four were
- seized by the Swords of Righteous-
ness Brigade, which claimed they
were spies working under the cover
of Christian peace activists. The cap-
tives - an American, a Briton and
two Canadians - were members of
the Chicago-based aid group Chris-
tian Peacemaker Teams, which con-
firmed they disappeared Saturday.
The footage showed Norman Kem-
ber, a retired British professor with
a shock of whitethair, sitting on the
floor with three other men. The cam-
era revealed the 74-year-old Kember's
passport, but the other hostages were
Christian Peacemaker Teams iden-
tified the other hostages as Tom Fox,
54, of Clearbrook, Va.; James Loney,
41, of Toronto; and Harmeet Singh
Sooden, 32, a Canadian electrical
The brief, blurry tape was shown
the same day German TV displayed
a photo of a blindfolded German
archaeologist being led away by
armed captors in Iraq. The kidnap-
pers threatened to kill Susanne
Osthoff and her Iraqi driver unless
Germany halts all contacts with the
Also yesterday, two American sol-
diers were killed by a roadside bomb
north of Baghdad, a Sunni cleric was
assassinated as he left a mosque, and
six Iranian pilgrims were seized near
a Shiite religious shrine. .
In a statement, Christian Peace-
maker Teams said it strongly opposed
the U.S. invasion of Iraq and blamed
the kidnapping on coalition forces.
"We are angry because what has
happened to our teammates is the
result of the actions of the U.S. and
ay, November 30, 2005 NATION/WORLD
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Plains reeling from major blizzard
Crewsgradually reopened major highways yesterday that had been closed by the
Plains' first blizzard of the season, stranding post-Thanksgiving travelers. Thou-
sands of people remained without electricity.
Five deaths were blamed on slippery roads in Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebras-
ka and Kansas. A sixth person was killed by a tornado spun off by the huge storm
system in Arkansas.
Remnants of the system headed over the upper Great Lakes on Tuesday after the
storm dumped snow as far south as the Texas Panhandle. As much as 20 inches of
snow fell at Kennebec, S.D., while Chamberlain, S.D., was choked by drifts up to 8
feet high. Utility officials estimated that 50,000 customers were blacked out across
eastern South Dakota yesterday, and many communities in North Dakota had no
electricity. Nebraska also had scattered outages. The morning's low at Grand Forks,
N.D., was 14 degrees.
South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds said yesterday that electricity might not be
restored to some areas for a few days as roads blocked by drifted snow kept utility
crews to finding all the damaged lines. Power companies in North Dakota said it
could take days to restore power.
Gay priest document officially published
The Vatican published its long-awaited document on gays in the clergy yes-
terday, saying men with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies should not be
ordained but those with a "transitory problem" could be if they had overcome
them for three years.
The official release of the "Instruction" from the Congregation for Catholic
Education came a week after an Italian Catholic news agency posted a leaked copy
on its Web site. As a result, the document's contents were already known.
Reaction has been mixed, with conservatives saying it may help reverse the "gay
culture" that has grown in many U.S. seminaries. Liberal critics have complained
that the restrictions will create morale problems among existing priests and lead to
an even greater priest shortage in the United States.
Some observers also have raised questions about exactly what the document
means by a "deep-seated homosexual tendency," since a definition isn't provided.
The head of the education congregation defended the document as a clear
reflection of church teaching, saying "in this field, in today's world, there is
Two bomb near courthouses kill eight
Bombs exploded in two Bangladesh cities yesterday, killing at least eight people
and injuring 66 in what appeared to be the latest attack by militant Muslims intent
on imposing harsh Islamic law, officials said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but police investigators suspected
the outlawed Islamic militant group Jumatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, blamed for
similar attacks this year.
The explosions in the main port city of Chittagong and in the town of Gaizipur,
just outside the capital, Dhaka, happened just before 9 a.m. and appeared to target
courthouses, police said.
Three bombs exploded just outside the Chittagong courthouse, killing the alleged
suicide bomber and fatally injuring two police officers, police official Mosharraf
Hossain told The Associated Press.
Effects of China's toxic spill expected to linger
Experts warned yesterday that dangers from a huge chemical spill in this north-
eastern Chinese city could last for years because of toxins - including cancer-
causing benzene - imbedded in ice and mud at the bottom of the Songhua River.
Their concern came as city officials in Harbin and down river in Russia's Far
East, where the 50-mile-long chemical slick was headed, sought to reassure resi-
dents their tap water was clean.
"Harbin's water is now safe to use and drink," Xiu Tinggong, vice director of the
city's health inspection bureau, said on local state television.
"Everybody can rest assured."
Christian Peacemaker Teams member Tom Fox is seen in this undated photo from Christian Peacemaker
Teams. The group has identified Fox as one of the hostages being held in Iraq.
U.K. government due to the illegal
attack on Iraq and the continuing
occupation and oppression of its
Christian Peacemaker Teams does
not consider itself a fundamentalist
organization, a spokeswoman said.
"We are very strict about this: We
do not do any evangelism, we are not
missionaries," Jessica Phillips told
The Associated Press in Chicago.
"Our interest is to bring an end to
the violence and destruction of civil-
ian life in Iraq."
Its first activists went to Iraq in
2002, six months before the U.S.-led
invasion, Phillips said, adding that a
main mission since the invasion has
been documenting alleged human
rights abuses by U.S. forces.
The German woman and her Iraqi
driver were kidnapped Friday, the
German government announced.
ARD public television said it obtained
a video in which the kidnappers made
their threats. The station posted a
photo on its Web site showing what
appears to be Osthoff and her driver
blindfolded on the floor, with three
masked militants standing by, one
with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Osthoff's mother told Germany's
N24 news station that her daughter
was an archaeologist who was work-
ing for a German aid organization
distributing medicine and medical
supplies since before the 2003 U.S.
invasion of Iraq.
Germany has ruled out send-
ing troops to Iraq and opposed the
U.S.-led war, but has been training
Iraqi police and military outside the
country. Chancellor Angela Merkel
appealed for Osthoff's release.
"The German government sharp-
ly condemns the act and urgently
appeals to the perpetrators to return
both safely and without delay,"
Merkel said. "The German govern-
ment will do everything in its power
to bring both back to safety."
Governor halts landmark execution
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia's governor
spared the life of a convicted killer yesterday who
would have been the 1,000th person executed in
the United States since the Supreme Court allowed
capital punishment to resume in 1976.
Robin Lovitt's death sentence was commuted
to life in prison without parole a little more than
24 hours before he was to be executed by injection
tonight for stabbing a man to death with a pair of
scissors during a 1998 pool-hall robbery.
In granting clemency, Gov. Mark R. Warner noted
that evidence from the trial had been improperly
destroyed, depriving the defense of the opportunity
to subject the material to the latest in DNA testing.
"The commonwealth must ensure that every time
this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fair-
ly," Warner said in a statement.
Warner, a Democrat, had never before granted clem-
ency to a death row inmate during his four years in
office. During that time, 11 men have been executed.
Virginia is one of the most active death-penalty states,
having executed 94 people since 1976.
The 1,000th execution is now scheduled for Fri-
day in North Carolina, where Kenneth Lee Boyd is
slated to die for killing his estranged wife and her
The 999th execution since capital punishment
resumed a generation ago took place Tuesday
morning, when Ohio put to death John Hicks, who
strangled his mother-in-law and suffocated his 5-
"The commonwealth must ensure that every time this
ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly."
- Mark R. Warner
- Compiled from Daily wire reports
year-old stepdaughter to cover up the crime.
Lovitt's lawyers, who include former indepen-
dent counsel Kenneth Starr, and anti-death penalty
advocates had argued that his life should be spared
because a court clerk illegally destroyed the bloody
scissors and other evidence, preventing DNA test-
ing that they said could exonerate him.
Ashley Parrish, another of Lovitt's attorneys,
called Warner's decision "entirely proper, given the
extraordinary circumstances of Mr. Lovitt's case."
Lovitt was convicted in 1999 of murdering Clay-
ton Dicks at an Arlington pool hall. Prosecutors
said Dicks caught Lovitt prying open a cash register
with the scissors, which police found in the woods
between the pool hall and the home of Lovitt's
Lovitt admitted grabbing the cash box but insist-
ed someone else killed Dicks. DNA tests on the
scissors at the time of the trial were inconclusive.
But more sophisticated DNA techniques are now
The governor, who is considered a possible Dem-
ocratic presidential contender in 2008, said he was
"acutely aware of the tragic loss experienced by the
"However, evidence in Mr. Lovitt's trial was
destroyed by a court employee" before post-convic-
tion DNA tests could be done, he said. "The actions
of an agent of the commonwealth, in a manner con-
trary to the express direction of the law, comes at
the expense of a defendant facing society's most
severe and final sanction."
The state attorney general's office released a
statement acknowledging the governor's authority
to grant clemency and adding, "Our thoughts and
prayers are with the victim's family."
In addition to Starr, Republicans such as Mark
Earley, Warner's GOP opponent in the 2001 guber-
natorial election, had also denounced the planned
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