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Elian Gonzalez Custody Flap Could Strengthen US-Cuba Relations

The custody flap over six-year-old Elian Gonzalez could ultimately strengthen US-Cuba relations if American officials stand firm and don’t succumb to political pressure, this according to a former American diplomat to Havana. It’s Wayne Smith, he was talking about the US INS decision. He said the federal government is doing the right thing by standing by the INS. Attorney General Reno has backed the INS determination that the boy be returned to his father in Cuba and has said that Florida state courts have no say in the federal matter, although she did extend the deadline on a decision in the case.

US Govt to Reunite Haitian Children Separated from Mother

Haitian Americans in South Florida are applauding the US government decision to reunite two Haitian children separated from their mother when their migrant-packed boat ran aground off the Florida coast. Authorities said yesterday the family reunion will occur in the United States within the next few days. Florida Congressmember Carrie Meek said Yvena Rhinvil’s children, ten-year-old Marc and eight-year-old Germanie, will travel to Miami as soon as passports are issued by the Haitian government. They have been staying with an aunt in Port-au-Prince.

RNC to Launch Ad Campaign to Improve Image Among Hispanic Voters

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee said yesterday it’ll spend up to $10 million on advertising in about ten states to improve its image among Hispanic voters. Party officials said the TV, radio and print ads would begin this spring and stress the values they believe Republicans and many Hispanics share. Hispanics are the fastest-growing population and they lean Democratic. In the last two presidential elections, Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for President Clinton, 72 percent to 21 percent in 1996.

Britain Pledges to Help Sierra Leone Stamp Out Illegal Diamond Trading

Britain yesterday pledged to help Sierra Leone stamp out illegal diamond trading, which has led to international calls for a boycott of gems from the war-battered west African nation.

Federal Court Questions Constitutionality of Campaign Finance Law

This news from Pennsylvania: While presidential candidates clash over the ethics of corporate campaign contributions, a case now before a federal court could make much of the discussion moot. US District Judge Thomas Vanaskie has questioned the constitutionality of the nation’s oldest law on campaign finance, a 1907 ban on corporate contributions to federal candidates, and has asked the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on the statute. The court, based in Philadelphia, is to consider the ban February 16.

The challenge stems from a federal indictment of former Empire Sanitary Landfill executive Renato Mariani for allegedly using corporate money to reimburse employees and friends for contributions to Bob Dole’s presidential campaign.

Virginia Executes Two Juvenile Murderers this Week

For the second time this week, Virginia has executed someone for a murder committed as a juvenile. Twenty-three-year-old Steve Roach died by injection last night. He was seventeen in 1993 when he shot and killed a seventy-year-old neighbor during a robbery. His lawyer said that before his death, Roach wrote that he couldn’t understand, “even to his last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing is wrong.”

On Monday, twenty-six-year-old Douglas Thomas was executed for shooting his girlfriend’s parents in 1990. He was also seventeen years old at the time of the murders, and he was also killed by the State of Virginia.

Lori Berenson Not to Receive New Trial Without Proof of Unfair Conviction

An American woman serving a life sentence for treason in Peru will not receive a new trial unless she can show proof that her conviction was unfair, this according to the Peruvian prime minister. Lori Berenson, a New York native and former MIT student, was convicted by a secret military tribunal in 1996 for helping rebels with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. She was not allowed to see the evidence against her, and she was sentenced to life in prison.

The Prime Minister, Alberto Bustamante, who is also Peru’s Justice Minister, said, “The possibility of a new trial for Berenson depends on whether new evidence is presented that shows that her initial trial was unjust, arbitrary or was not based on the facts of the case.” Bustamante also said a pardon for Berenson is out of the question.

Ballmer Crowned Microsoft Chief Executive

Steve Ballmer has been crowned Microsoft’s new king, while Bill Gates may be aiming even higher. Gates announced yesterday he is giving up day-to-day leadership of the company he co-founded in 1975 to return “to what I love most, focusing on technologies for the future.” Ballmer was named chief executive of the software giant, formalizing more than a year and a half of change at the software company in both management and vision. He inherited the job from Gates, who will remain Microsoft’s chair and become a full-time “software architect.” Microsoft has made Gates the world’s wealthiest person, with a fortune estimated at more than $80 billion.

Granny D Walks Across America for Campaign Finance Reform

Doris Haddock, aka Granny D, is an eighty-nine-year-old woman who is walking across America to bring the issue of campaign finance reform to as many states as she can. We will continue to chronicle her journey. She hopes to arrive in Washington, D.C. on Leap Day, February 29.

Granny D: "This is Granny D, and I’m on Route 40, which is the first national highway that was ever built. It was built for General Braddock by Colonel Washington to fight the French in Pittsburgh. Today is twenty-one-degrees cold and one inch of snow. I shall be walking probably ten miles, and it’s in Addison, Pennsylvania, just south of Pittsburgh on the Mason-Dixon Line. I’m walking across the country because I feel that today a man has to sell his soul to the corporation or the union in order to run or he has to be a multi-millionaire, and I want to leave a country that’s all by and for the people for my great-grandchildren and all the children in this country."

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