World Watch

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Following the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, the country's judicial system braced for a deluge of legal challenges to a wide range of laws. For the first time, a single document — the Human Rights Act — contains a written bill of basic rights in such areas as privacy, family life, free expression and fair trial. Until now, Britain has enjoyed "negative rights" — that is, people were permitted to do anything not specifically forbidden. Court challenges related to such matters as news reporting, immigration, employment, discrimination and criminal justice are expected. Critics fear the act will be costly to defend and will strengthen minority-interest groups.

Motorists in Sicily waited in kilometer-long lines for gasoline as most stations on the Italian island closed after truckers went on strike, demanding lower fuel prices as well as reduced ferry fares. Food supplies and public transportation diminished. Until last week, Italy had largely avoided the fuel protests that blocked roads in much of Europe by agreeing to freeze gasoline prices and roll back diesel fuel costs, which are particularly high in southern Italy. In Spain, truckers ended a three-day action that had blocked the borders with France and Portugal, agreeing to government concessions that would offset rising fuel costs.

Ruling that the European Commission has no power in health regulation, the European Court of Justice overturned an E.U. prohibition on tobacco advertising and sponsorship. The E.U. executive's ban "in no way helped to facilitate trade in the products concerned," the court also said, but rather blocked the free movement of goods and services. The German government and several tobacco and advertising companies had argued that the 1998 ban impeded a single market and, in seeking to protect public health, strayed into an area in which the E.U. had no regulatory authority.

Albania's governing Socialists claimed victory in local elections across the country. Opposition assertions of fraud were not shared by international and local election monitors. In "partial official results," the Socialists said they had won 27 of 65 mayoral races, to the Democratic Party's nine. The remainder of the contests are to be decided in a second round of voting on Oct. 15. In races for 409 town council seats, the Socialists won 110, the Democrats 33 and other parties three, with the rest to be settled in runoff voting. The Democrats are led by former President Sali Berisha, who stepped down in 1997 amid popular unrest.

In another day of violence and tension — billed as a "day of rage" by Palestinians — Israeli troops shot at least nine Palestinians to death in fierce battles in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday. Meanwhile, police stormed a bitterly contested holy site in Jerusalem, tearing down a Palestinian flag and arresting or dispersing young Palestinians. Others skirmished on the streets of the Old City. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of stone-throwing Palestinians clashed with troops as they marched on military positions. The action at the Jerusalem holy site — known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary — came on the ninth day of fighting over who will control the religious site in a final peace deal. At week's end, scores of people, most of them Palestinians, were dead and nearly 2,000 injured, and new flashpoints were erupting.

The Supreme Court barred Ivory Coast's main opposition leader from seeking the presidency. Alassane Dramane Ouattara and 14 others who sought to run in the Oct. 22 election were rejected as candidates, leaving only the military junta leader General Robert Guei and four others to contest the presidency. Ouattara's eligibility to run was brought into question by doubts over the nationality of his mother. Under the new constitution, both parents of any presidential candidate must be Ivorian. Ouattara rejects the junta's assertion that his mother's origins are in Burkina Faso.

Monsoon rains, coupled with the release of water from reservoirs, claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people in India and Bangladesh. Another 20,000 were left homeless or marooned. West Bengal state was India's hardest hit area, particularly the rural districts east of Calcutta. Parts of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos also have been devastated, with about 500 dead. ShuichengRescue workers in southwestern China all but gave up hope of rescuing about 30 coal miners trapped in caves filled with poisonous gas following an underground explosion in which at least 125 others were killed. The accident at the Muchonggou mine in Guizhou province has again highlighted the staggering rate of fatalities in Chinese coal mines, the deadliest in the world. According to official statistics, at least 2,730 people have perished in the first half of this year.

Philippine troops freed 12 Christian evangelists held by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas on the southern island of Jolo after one of the evangelists escaped and later pointed out the rebels' camp from a military helicopter. After a brief clash, the large Abu Sayyaf group that had been holding the captives fled deeper into the jungle. With no more hostages held by the large faction, the Philippine government now has a freer hand in continuing the military offensive it began on Sept. 16. Five other hostages — another Filipino, an American and three Malaysians — are still believed to be held by two smaller Abu Sayyaf factions. The military has acknowledged underestimating the strength of the Muslim rebels, whose numbers are said to have increased considerably since Libya and Malaysia began paying millions of dollars in ransom for the scores of hostages taken since April.

For the first time, the hole in Earth's ozone layer over Antarctica has stretched over a populated area, according to a research scientist with New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. Stephen Wood, using data from the U.S. space agency nasa, said the ozone hole grew to record size last month and for two days — Sept. 9 and 10 — opened over the city of Punta Arenas in southern Chile. Residents of the city of 120,000 people were thus exposed to very high levels of ultraviolet radiation, which can cause skin cancer. Scientists believe that record-low stratospheric temperatures in the southern hemisphere's spring contributed to the expansion of the hole to more than 29.5 million sq km — over three times the size of the United States.

La Paz
In separate bitter disputes over coca production, teachers' salaries and new water and land laws, protesters blockaded roads leading into Bolivia's capital, La Paz, and the key agricultural centers of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, forcing food prices to skyrocket. Indian farmers and other peasants took to the streets of the Chapare region near Cochabamba on Sept. 18, demanding land reform and an end to the government's destruction of lucrative coca fields. At least 10 people have been killed in protest-related violence. Bolivia, with one of the poorest economies in the western hemisphere, has reduced coca production in recent years in exchange for U.S. aid. That move has cut deeply into the livelihoods of tens of thousands of growers. The government is also embroiled in a dispute with rural teachers demanding higher pay.

Buenos Aires
Argentina's Vice President Carlos Alvarez resigned, apparently frustrated at being excluded from decisions leading to a cabinet shakeup and at a seeming lack of concern over corruption in Congress. The move — followed by the resignation of a top presidential aide — dealt another blow to the 10-month government of Fernando de la Rúa. Alvarez resigned a day after De la Rúa announced changes in his cabinet designed to strengthen ministries charged with getting the economy back on track. Labor Minister Alberto Flamarique, who led the campaign for approval of controversial labor reforms, was appointed chief of staff in the cabinet shuffle, but resigned after Alvarez's announcement. Alvarez had demanded that Flamarique step down as Labor Minister for the duration of Senate inquiries into alleged bribery of legislators to back the labor reforms.