KABUL, Afghanistan

Karzai locks up first presidential election

Hamid Karzai clinched a majority of the votes cast in
Afghanistan’s first presidential election, near-complete
results showed yesterday, leaving him all but certain of becoming
his war-wrecked nation’s first democratically elected
leader.

His chief rival, former Education Minister Yunus Qanooni,
announced he was willing to accept the election result, but only if
irregularities in the vote were acknowledged by a panel of foreign
investigators.

“For the national interest and so the country does not go
into crisis, we will respect the result of the election,”
said Syed Hamid Noori, spokesman for Qanooni. “But we also
want the fraud to be made clear.”

By Sunday evening, Karzai had received 4,240,041 votes, more
than half of the estimated 8,129,935 valid votes cast in the Oct.9
ballot, the joint U.N.-Afghan electoral board said. That means that
even if all the remaining estimated votes went to other candidates,
Karzai would still have more than the 50 percent necessary to avoid
a runoff. With 7,666,529 valid votes — or 94.3 percent of the
total — counted, Karzai had received 55.3 percent, 39
percentage points ahead of Qanooni.

Karzai’s campaign spokesman said Sunday’s figures
confirmed optimism that the interim leader would triumph when the
final results are released in the next few days.

 

WASHINGTON

Research finds home Internet access insecure

Internet users at home are not nearly as safe online as they
believe, according to a nationwide inspection by researchers. They
found most consumers have no firewall protection, outdated
antivirus software and dozens of spyware programs secretly running
on their computers.

One beleaguered home user in the government-backed study had
more than 1,000 spyware programs running on his sluggish computer
when researchers examined it.

Bill Mines, a personal trainer in South Riding, Va. , did not
fare much better. His family’s three-year-old Dell computer
was found infected with viruses and more than 600 pieces of spyware
surreptitiously monitoring his online activities.

“I was blown away,” Mines said. “I had a lot
of viruses and other things I didn’t know about. I had no
idea things like this could happen.”

With increasingly sophisticated threats from hackers, viruses,
spam e-mails and spyware, trouble is finding computer users no
matter how cautiously they roam online.

 

JERUSALEM

Cabinet OKs Gaza settlers compensation plan

Israel’s Cabinet approved a compensation plan yesterday
for settlers who will be uprooted by Ariel Sharon’s plan to
withdraw from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, handing the
prime minister an important victory two days before a showdown in
parliament over the pullout.

Meanwhile, a team of Tunisian doctors examined Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat — who is recovering from the flu —
and pronounced him “OK,” Sunday despite speculation he
might be suffering something more serious.

In southern Gaza, Israeli aircraft and tanks launched a series
of strikes in the Khan Younis refugee camp late yesterday and early
today that killed five Palestinians and wounded 23 others. Violence
in Gaza has increased in the months since Sharon announced his
“unilateral disengagement” plan to pull out of Gaza and
four West Bank settlements next year.

The Cabinet approved compensation program, which passed in a
13-6 vote, is a key part of Sharon’s withdrawal plan. The
victory gave Sharon important momentum in the run-up to a Knesset
vote tomorrow for the first time on the entire withdrawal plan.

 

OJIYA, Japan

Massive earthquakes injure thousands in Japan

Tens of thousands of Japanese huddled in emergency shelters
yesterday after a series of earthquakes in northern Japan flattened
homes, toppled bridges and derailed trains, killing at least 21
people and injuring as many as 2,000. Eight people were believed
missing.

A 6.8-magnitude quake rocked the largely rural Niigata
prefecture Saturday evening, rattling buildings as far away as the
Japanese capital. Several strong quakes followed through the night,
and aftershocks continued to jolt the area yesterday.

The Japanese government said 21 people were killed and 1,217
were injured, while public broadcaster NHK, citing hospital data,
said 21 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured. The
dead included five children, the youngest a 2-month-old infant.

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