Fox asks for discussions on immigration


Mexican President Vicente Fox, insisting that Mexicans in the United States pose no terror threat, called for high-level discussions to give legal status to at least some of the more than 4 million undocumented Mexicans living north of the border.

President Bush, in a videotaped message to a cabinet-level meeting of the two countries, agreed that work on migration should continue but did not suggest that an agreement was high on his agenda.

Fox told the meeting it was important to establish a migration framework that “clearly distinguishes between those who arrive in that country to work and those who could represent a threat.”

While the Bush administration has refrained from asserting that Mexicans represent a terrorist threat, the security measures it has adopted generally have not made distinctions between nationalities.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is heading the U.S. delegation here, made this point to reporters during Monday’s flight from Washington.

“We have to deal with the whole issue of people coming to our country from elsewhere, and that is taking a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy,” he said.

He acknowledged Fox’s impatience with the slow progress and promised “to work as hard and as fast as we can.”

Chretien spokeswoman resigns over comment


Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s communications director resigned yesterday over a controversy caused by her private comment last week that President Bush is a moron.

Francoise Ducros, who initially offered to quit but was kept on by Chretien, is leaving the prime minister’s office after all, according to a statement issued by Chretien’s chief of staff.

In a letter of resignation to Chretien, Ducros wrote: “It is very apparent to me that the controversy will make it impossible for me to do my job.”

“I would therefore like to leave my position as director of communications immediately,” the letter said. “I am grateful for the support you have given me during this difficult time.”

Chretien accepted the resignation this time, responding in a letter: “In your almost four years as director of communications, you have served the government as a whole, and me personally, with extraordinary skill and dedication.”

The comment made in a discussion with a radio reporter last week at the NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic, has dominated Canadian media, and opposition politicians have called for her resignation.

500 reported dead in influenza outbreak


The World Health Organization confirmed an outbreak of flu in rebel-controlled northern Congo, and the country’s health minister said yesterday more than 500 people have died.

Deaths have been recorded in a number of towns – including Bosobolo, Gbadolite and Gemena – in the north of Equateur province, near the border with Central African Republic, Health Minister Mashako Mamba said.

He said as many as 566 people have died since the outbreak began in October, adding that the figures were “certainly incomplete.”

WHO officials in the capital, Kinshasa, confirmed the outbreak but said they could not say how many people had been infected or killed.

The illness was apparently spread by people fleeing an Oct. 25 coup attempt in Central African Republic, Mamba said.

China introduces suicide prevention


One day next week, three nurses will sit down at telephones in Beijing and do something that would have been unheard of in China just a decade ago: They’ll try to stop anyone who calls from committing suicide.

As 1.3 billion people cope with the most sweeping changes their nation has ever experienced, China’s first suicide research and prevention center is opening in the capital with a lengthy list of priorities – everything from intervening in emergencies to changing outdated attitudes about mental health.

It’s a tall order for a populace accustomed to centuries of gritting their teeth through hard times and coping with “chiku” – a traditional metaphor for enduring hardship that means, literally, “eating bitter.”

Launch disturbs orbit of Russian satellite


The world’s largest communications satellite was lost yesterday after it went into the wrong orbit following its launch on a Russian rocket, the Russian space agency said.

It was the biggest setback yet to Russia’s satellite-launching program, which Moscow has seen as a potential cash cow for its depressed space industry.

The Astra-1K satellite was launched atop a Proton rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. The rocket carried it to a preliminary orbit, but the Russian-made DM-3 boosting unit failed to give a secondary impulse to send it to its higher orbit, said Konstantin Kreidenko of the Russian Aerospace Agency.

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