In other items: Brothers sentenced in Canada's E. coli tragedy; Kyoto protocol wins Saudi Arabia's backing; four arrested in theft of mountain gorilla; ten men in Sierra Leone coup plot sentenced to death; and U.S. critics arrested, Islamist activists say.
The number of passengers flying to Cuba from the United States has plummeted since last year, according to figures compiled by the State Department. The trend suggests tougher travel restrictions put in place last summer by the Bush administration are working as intended.
Since July, when the regulations took effect, 50,558 seats have been reserved on charter flights to Cuba, most originating in South Florida. The number a year earlier was more than twice as high: 118,938 seats.
The new restrictions allow Cuban Americans to visit relatives in Cuba only once every three years instead of the yearly visits previously allowed. The new regulations also limit visits to immediate family members, defined as spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandchildren and grandparents.
The restrictions are intended to squeeze Cuban President Fidel Castro’s communist government by stemming the flow of U.S. dollars to the island.
Brothers sentenced in E. coli tragedy
Two brothers who ran a water system that became contaminated with E. coli bacteria, killing seven people and sickening 2,300 in a farming community of 5,000, were sentenced yesterday for their role in one of Canada’s worst public-health disasters.
Stan Koebel, former utilities-commission manager of Walkerton, was sentenced to one year in jail, while his brother, utilities foreman Frank Koebel, was sentenced to nine months of house arrest.
Flooding on May 12, 2000, washed cattle manure into a town well in the community 90 miles west of Toronto. Within days, people began getting sick with diarrhea, nausea and other symptoms.
Residents had to boil tap water or rely on bottled water for almost seven months. The town’s water system was eventually overhauled at a cost of $10 million.
Justice Bruce Durno of Ontario Superior Court suggested the brothers weren’t solely to blame for the tragedy but sentenced them because they faked water reports and failed to initially disclose the problems to officials. A commission of inquiry found the brothers lacked the training and education for the job and lied to authorities to protect themselves.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Kyoto protocol wins oil giant’s backing
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, yesterday gave its approval to the Kyoto protocol, which aims to slow global warming, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
As a developing country, Saudi Arabia would not be subject to emissions cuts under Kyoto, a requirement only binding 30 industrialized nations. But Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi has said his country expects to lose billions of dollars in oil sales as developed nations cut fossil-fuel use to stem greenhouse-gas emissions.
Saudi Arabia has called for research to improve technology to recover greenhouse gases at the point of production of fossil fuels, easing the impact of environmental measures on oil exporters.
Four arrested in theft of mountain gorilla
Police have arrested four suspected poachers and recovered a 3-year-old mountain gorilla stolen from its family in the forests of neighboring Congo, a spokesman said yesterday.
The animal, hidden in a sack, was headed for unknown buyers in Kenya, police said.
Gorillas are fiercely protective of their young, and the youngster was stolen after two of the suspects drugged adult members of the group by feeding them intoxicated bananas, said Fidele Ruzigandekwe, head of the Rwanda Wildlife Agency.
There are only about 380 mountain gorillas left in the wild.
The animals were made famous by the movie “Gorillas in the Mist” about Dian Fossey, who studied them in northeastern Rwanda in the 1960s and documented her work in a book by the same name.
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Ten men in coup plot sentenced to death
Ten men charged with plotting to overthrow Sierra Leone’s government last year were convicted of treason yesterday and sentenced to death by hanging.
The 10, including ex-army officers and rebels who fought during Sierra Leone’s brutal 1991-2002 war, have 21 days to appeal. Another defendant was given 10 years in prison on a lesser, related charge.
Security forces captured the men after a Jan. 13, 2003, shootout at a military base in what prosecutors called an effort to capture weapons for an attempt to overthrow President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah’s government.
U.S. critics arrested, Islamist activists say
Authorities have arrested scores of Islamist and leftist activists critical of U.S. policies, leading opposition figures claimed yesterday.
Among those detained in recent weeks is Jamil Abu Bakr, a senior member of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the country’s largest political party but a minority in a parliament dominated by pro-government deputies.
Another former Islamist legislator, Sheikh Anees Deeb, was interrogated after officials said his religious lessons in a mosque might whip up anti-U.S. sentiment that could encourage violence.
“They want to silence people over what’s happening in Iraq and Palestine,” said Sheikh Hamza Mansour, head of the IAF. “The authorities have lost their patience and every time someone utters a word they shut him down by arresting him.”
Mansour said Jordanians were angry with the government’s support for U.S. policy in Iraq and pro-peace policies that legitimized Israel’s existence.