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|September 25-October 1, 2008
Opposition takes lead in vote
BELGRADE — The opposition Social Democratic Party is slightly ahead of the ruling Conservative Slovene Democratic Party after Sunday’s parliamentary elections, the country’s electoral commission said.
With 99.97 percent of votes counted, the Social Democrats, led by Borut Pahor, have 29 seats in the new parliament with 30.5 percent of the vote, while the Conservative Slovene Democratic Party of the incumbent Prime Minister Janez Jansa has 28 seats with 29.32 percent of the vote.
Jansa has yet to concede defeat.
Official results, which will include overseas votes — some 2.7 percent of the electorate — are expected by Oct. 1.
If the Social Democrats’ victory is confirmed, they are expected to form a ruling coalition with the Zares party of Gregor Golobic and the Liberal Democrats, headed by Katarina Kresal.
Turnout so far is 62 percent of the registered 1.7 million electorate.
Mine yields 478-carat diamond
LONDON — A London-based diamond mining company, Gem Diamonds, announced it had discovered a rough diamond weighing 478 carats at its mine in Lesotho.
The company said the stone was the 20th-largest diamond found anywhere in the world and has the highest color grading available for a white diamond.
“Preliminary examination of this remarkable diamond indicates that it will yield a record-breaking polished stone of the very best color and quality,” the Gem Diamonds CEO Clifford Elphick said.
The diamond, which has yet to be named, is expected to weigh approximately 150 karats after polishing, still enough to become one of the largest flawless round-polished diamonds in history, with a price of more than $12 million.
The white diamond “of outstanding clarity” was found on Sept. 8 at the Letseng Mine, one of the world’s richest diamond deposits, which has so far produced four of the world’s 20 largest diamonds. Previous finds include the 603-carat Lesotho Promise in 2006, the 493-carat Letseng Legacy in 2007 and the 601-carat Lesotho Brown in the 1960s.
The stone has the potential to yield a diamond far bigger than the 105-carat round-cut Koh-i-Noor diamond, taken to Britain from India in the 19th century and now part of the British Crown Jewels.
The largest rough diamond ever found was the 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond discovered in 1905, which yielded nine large diamonds, including a teardrop-shaped gem of 530 carats, called the Great Star of Africa.
The world’s largest facetted diamond is a 545.6-carat brown gem called the Golden Jubilee.
Russian South Park fans rally
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Viewers of a Russian adult animation channel that is facing charges of promoting extremism are holding a sanctioned rally in St. Petersburg.
In early September Russian prosecutors upheld a complaint from a religious group against the adult-oriented cartoon network 2x2, which broadcasts South Park, The Simpsons, The Griffins, (known in the U.S. as Family Guy) Metalocalypse, and Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl, for their “overt propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia.” The 2x2 company was issued with a warning and the case was referred to court.
Several hundred young people gathered in St. Petersburg to express their support for the channel, although the rally organizers had filed an application with the city authorities for no more than 50 persons.
Jury selection to start in torture trial
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Hot irons held to human flesh. Electric shocks to a man’s genitalia. Fire ants poured onto a naked prisoner in a pit.
Those are some of the brutal acts jurors will hear about when the groundbreaking trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s son begins this week in a federal courtroom in Miami.
Charles McArthur Emmanuel, 31, also known as Chuckie Taylor, is charged with inflicting and ordering the torture of prisoners as head of his West African nation’s feared Demon Forces.
The case marks the first prosecution under a 1994 law criminalizing torture outside U.S. borders. It tests the principle that alleged human rights abusers should answer for their crimes no matter where they are brought to account.
Jury selection is expected to start this week.
Emmanuel, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a possible life sentence if convicted. Defense attorneys plan to argue that the government’s witnesses are lying to obtain legal immigration status in the United States and Europe.
Emmanuel, a U.S. citizen, was born in Boston and spent his teen years with his mother and stepfather in Orlando. He later joined his father in Africa and became head of Liberia’s elite security force, known formally as the Anti-Terrorism Unit and nicknamed the Demon Forces.
His father is currently on trial before a United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for alleged human rights violations during Sierra Leone’s civil war. U.S. agents arrested Emmanuel in March 2006 as he tried to sneak back into the country at Miami International Airport.
According to a federal indictment, Emmanuel’s job from 1999 to 2002 was to intimidate, weaken and eliminate his father’s political opponents.
Prosecutors will tell jurors that Emmanuel ran a prison camp in Gbatala, Liberia, where the Demon Forces kept prisoners in pits covered with iron bars and barbed wire. Guards jabbed at the prisoners through the bars with sharp metal rods and on at least one occasion shoveled stinging ants into a pit, prosecutors allege.
Human rights groups praise the prosecution as an important step toward holding an alleged torturer accountable.
However, the case has also stirred debate over controversial interrogation practices approved by U.S. officials in the war on terror, said Theresa Harris, a lawyer with the World Organization for Human Rights USA, based in Washington, D.C.
“It’s important that the United States is bringing forward this prosecution, but it also raises an obvious question,” Harris said. “Are we only going to consider it a criminal act if another country’s officials conduct torture, or are we going to hold our own officials accountable?”
Mick Jagger takes new job
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Rock legend Mick Jagger has become a European Commission adviser on Internet shopping, La Libre Belgique said.
The 65-year-old Rolling Stones’ lead singer, along with top European businessmen including Apple boss Steve Jobs and Fiat chief John Elkann, recently attended a forum in Brussels to discuss how to make online music sales easier.
Jagger, a trained accountant, was invited to take part in the event by his old friend, the EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes.
The participants are due to assist in drafting a brief report for the European Commission and submit their own proposals on the issue by Oct. 15. The commission will then draw up its own report based on these proposals.
Japanese reel in wake of food scare
TOKYO — Coming hot on the heels of a frozen gyoza scare earlier this year, the revelation that tainted milk may have been used in Chinese-made foods marketed in Japan has further rocked the food industry and the public generally.
Marudai Food Co., a leading manufacturer of ham and sausages based in Takatsuki, Japan, announced a voluntary recall of five products that had been processed in China and exported to Japan, saying they might contain the toxin melamine.
The five Marudai products used fresh milk produced by Yili Industrial Co., a Chinese dairy firm whose milk was confirmed to have contained melamine.
“We thought powdered milk was the only product that was dangerous and that milk was safe,” said Marudai spokesman Tatsuo Sawai who was surrounded by reporters in front of the company’s head office Saturday afternoon.
The company started trying to confirm whether the milk in question was used in its products on Friday morning after newspapers reported that the chemical had been found in milk produced by Yili Industrial Co. and two other dairy firms.
This followed the revelation Sept. 9 that 14 babies in several villages in Gansu Province had been diagnosed with kidney stones after drinking baby milk powder produced by the same maker.
Marudai immediately instructed its subsidiary in Qingdao, China, which manufactures confectionery and snacks, to examine where its products’ ingredients came from. The firm received a report that the subsidiary had used milk produced by Yili Industrial, and notified a local public health center.
The news took the central government by surprise.
When it came to light in China that powder milk was contaminated with melamine, the Chinese government told the Japanese Embassy in Beijing that the powdered milk in question had not been exported to Japan.
When fresh milk produced by China’s three major dairy firms was discovered to have contained traces of melamine, the Chinese government gave a similar explanation.
But the Chinese statement meant only that no fresh milk had been directly exported from the three dairy firms to Japan. Yili’s fresh milk, however, was sold to the Japanese firm’s Chinese subsidiary through a trading house, processed in some products there, and eventually exported to Japan.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry informed quarantine stations around the country to halt procedures for importing Chinese-produced fresh milk and dairy products. However, the ministry stopped short of controlling processed foods containing milk.
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