Groups raise awareness with AIDS Day

CAPE TOWN, South Africa

Southern African countries marked World AIDS Day yesterday with hopes that the region, which has the highest rate of HIV positive people on the planet, can slow the spread of the disease.

There are 42 million HIV positive people worldwide, with sub-Saharan Africa home to 75 percent of them, according to UNAIDS, the U.N.’s AIDS agency.

South Africa has more HIV positive people than any other country in the world. Figures released by the government more than two years ago showed that 4.7 million people – one in nine – were infected, and the figure today is believed to be substantially higher.

The number of people with AIDS in Asia threatens to reach epidemic levels, and activists there also tried to raise awareness of the disease and how to prevent it. Events were also held in Cuba, Brazil, Peru and several other countries.

South Africa’s government had come under fire for not doing enough to combat the AIDS epidemic, and it has recently shown signs of taking the issue more seriously.

This year the government almost tripled its anti-AIDS budget to $108 million, and plans to increase it to $194 million in the next financial year.

U.N. inspectors visit decrepit Iraqi aireld


U.N. disarmament teams inspected a shabby, seldom-used airfield in corn country north of Baghdad yesterday, a place where Iraqi experts engineered devices for bombarding an enemy from the air with sprays of killer microbes.

The U.N. inspectors checked on equipment sealed and tagged by U.N. teams in the 1990s and pored over paper and computer files, the airfield’s director said. But they apparently found none of the advanced spray systems, unaccounted for since the Gulf War.

“We showed them everything,” said the director, Montadhar Radeef Mohammed.

The inspectors, as usual, kept their findings confidential, pending later formal reports.

In their first week of inspections, the U.N. monitors paid unannounced visits to a dozen Iraqi sites with a wide variety of specialties and links to weapons programs in the 1980s.

Those ranged from an animal vaccine plant that brewed lethal toxins for bombs, to an industrial complex planned to house hundreds of gas centrifuges producing enriched uranium for Iraqi nuclear weapons.

Kissinger speaks on Sept. 11 commission


Henry Kissinger, chairman of the commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks, said yesterday he will have no qualms recommending an examination of possible involvement by foreign countries if facts point that way.

“If they lead in the direction of the need for looking into the actions of foreign countries or what foreign countries knew, my personal recommendation will be to explore that,” the former secretary of state said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“But I would like to wait until we have the commission together,” he added.

President Bush appointed Kissinger on Thursday and congressional Democratic leader named the vice chairman, former Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine). The panel’s other eight members will be appointed by Dec. 15.

Foreigners flee from Ivory Coast violence

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast

Foreigners evacuated from western Ivory Coast said yesterday that rebels were looting houses and shooting randomly in the streets in violence that appeared to involve Liberian militants.

French forces flew 160 people, mostly French and Lebanese merchants and business people, from the key cocoa city of Man near the border with Liberia to Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan yesterday.

“The groups from Liberia are unbearable,” said Ashkar Louis Michel, a Lebanese man who has lived in the city for 38 years. “They enter the homes and steal. The others don’t do that.”

Others among the refugees said Ivorian rebels had gunned down at least two Liberians who were caught looting.

“They were shooting in the streets,” said Fatme Mhana, a Lebanese woman.

‘Fightin’ Whites’ gain funds for scholarship


What started out as an attempt to shame a local high school into dropping a mascot name viewed as racist has raised at least $100,000 for scholarships for Native American college students.

The effort began last winter when students at the University of Northern Colorado asked officials at nearby Eaton High School to change the school’s mascot from “Fighting Reds” because the name was offensive. The school refused, and members of the UNC intramural basketball team, made up of Native Americans and whites, took action.

They named themselves the “Fightin’ Whites” and began wearing T-shirts bearing the name. After getting national media attention they began selling the shirts, which also bear the slogan “Everythang’s going to be all white.”

More than 15,000 shirts and hats have been sold, raising at least $100,000.

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