World Watch

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A British judge ruled that the two killers of two-year-old James Bulger — who themselves were only 10 when they battered the Liverpool toddler to death in 1993 — should be given lifelong anonymity when they are released from custody, probably this year. Because the murder triggered threats of reprisals, the judge banned the publication of any information about Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, now both 18. Several newspapers opposed the injunction, which applies to media in England and Wales, on the grounds that other serious offenders would also try to claim anonymity.

Plans were announced to salvage the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk later this year from 108 m below the surface of the Barents Sea, where it has lain since a series of explosions last Aug. 12. The Kursk Foundation, set up in Brussels last year by the Russian and Dutch governments, says it will cost $70 million to drill holes in the craft's outer hull, winch it to just below the surface, and then tow it to the Russian port of Murmansk. The wreck still contains the bodies of more than 100 Russian sailors, as well as an estimated 22 cruise missiles and two nuclear reactors. Advocates of the plan, for which financing has yet to be secured, say the Kursk should be raised before the reactors corrode and contaminate the sea with radioactive material.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder announced a revamp of the powers of the Agriculture Ministry in the wake of an outcry over "mad cow" disease. Schröder named Renate Künast, the 45-year-old co-leader of the environmental Green Party who has no previous experience in agriculture, to head up the new superministry, which will oversee food, agriculture and consumer protection. The change follows the resignations of Health Minister Andrea Fischer and Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke, who admitted policy errors in their handling of a crisis over bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as "mad cow" disease.

In an attempt to depoliticize the country's state television station and appease its striking news staff, the lower house of the Czech parliament sacked the Czech Television Council, a supervisory board with the power to appoint and dismiss the station's general director. Bolstered by strong support from the Czech people, the station's news staff went on strike following the appointment of Jiri Hodac as general director shortly before Christmas — Hodac, a former bbc journalist widely accused of political bias, resigned Jan. 11 in what appeared be a pre-emptive strike ahead of the emergency parliamentary session. The lower house also voted to give itself the power to appoint a new temporary head of the station.

Two Palestinians were executed by firing squad after being convicted of collaborating with Israel. As a crowd of about 1,000 onlookers chanted "God is most great," Alan Bani Odeh, 25, was shot inside a police compound in Nablus; in an execution to which the public was not admitted, Majdi Makawi, 28, was shot in a police station in Gaza. Both men had been accused of providing Israel with information that led to the death of Palestinian activists during the current uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The two men are the fourth and fifth to be executed by the Palestinian Authority since it took control of parts of the area in 1994, but the first two to be put to death for collaboration.

Following criticism from religious leaders, the Zambian government suspended a controversial series of television advertisements which encouraged safe sex practices through the use of condoms. The aim of the campaign, launched last month and screened at prime viewing times, was to slow the high rate of hiv infection in the country, where at least a million people are believed to be infected with the virus. But church groups complained that the ads — one of which featured a demonstration of how to use a condom — would encourage promiscuity. Durban World Health Organization officials arrived in KwaZulu-Natal to help with a cholera epidemic that has claimed at least 65 lives in the South African province since August. Additional deaths were being reported in neighboring southeastern African states. More than 50 people have died of the disease in Mozambique in recent months, and cases have been diagnosed in Swaziland, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi. Medical workers estimate that up to 17,000 people have been infected in KwaZulu-Natal and believe that new cases in the industrial Johannesburg Reef area and other northern provinces could be traced to the original outbreak.

In what may be a breakthrough in the political deadlock in Burma, also known as Myanmar, military leader General Khin Nyunt has been holding talks with the head of the country's democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, a United Nations spokesman said. The content of the discussions, which have been going on since last October, was not revealed, but diplomats in Rangoon said any meeting between Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a top junta member is a positive development. Suu Kyi has been confined to her home since September after trying to meet supporters outside the capital. She last saw Khin Nyunt in 1994 while under house arrest for campaigning to restore democracy.

China launched a spacecraft carrying animals and other nonhuman life forms into orbit around the earth, as part of its ongoing plan to become the third nation, after Russia and the U.S., to send human beings into space. This is the second unmanned test of China's Shenzhou, or "magic vessel," space capsule series, and Chinese scientists are expected to use the voyage to test instrument panels and monitor the ship's life support systems.

Immigration officers are searching for 108 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and team officials who are still in Australia, illegally, two months after their visas have expired. The overstayers, who come from 61 countries, include 79 people who came for the Olympiad and 29 participants in the subsequent Paralympics. The U.S. accounts for the largest group of the missing, 11, while eight hail from Britain, seven from Spain, six from Germany and four from both Russia and Nigeria.

A record 17 candidates have filed to run for the presidency in Peru's April 8 elections. The surprise campaigner is American Popular Revolutionary Alliance candidate Alan Garcia. A controversial former President, Garcia is remembered for dragging the country into economic isolation during his five-year tenure and for a 7,600% inflation rate in 1990, his last year in office. Garcia also stands accused of receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks during his term. The early front-runner is Stanford University-educated Alejandro Toledo, a former World Bank economist whose candidacy had 34% support in the most recent opinion poll.

Quebec City
In a further blow to Quebec's separatist movement, Lucien Bouchard, leader of the Parti Québécois and the Canadian province's current premier, abruptly announced his resignation. Support for the sovereignty movement has waned markedly since a hotly contested referendum in 1995, when Quebec voted to remain a part of Canada by a margin of less than 1%. Bouchard, 62, said he was resigning because his efforts to invigorate the move-ment had been unsuccessful and because he wants to spend more time with his family. He will remain premier until his party chooses a new leader.

President-elect George W. Bush's smooth transition hit its first rough spot when Linda Chavez, his choice for Secretary of Labor, withdrew her nomination after it was disclosed that she had housed an illegal Guatemalan immigrant in the early 1990s. Chavez claimed that she was sheltering the impoverished woman from an abusive husband and did not improperly employ her as a domestic. An opinionated former official for Bush's father and a foe of the labor movement, Chavez claimed she was a victim of the "politics of personal destruction," a phrase used by President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Chavez admitted that her failure to warn the Bush team about the immigrant might have hastened her departure.