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The Elian Gonzalez case is coming to a head. Attorney General Janet Reno has ordered the child’s Miami relatives to take the boy to a Florida airport today so he can be flown to Washington for a reunion with his dad. But the six-year-old’s great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, says he will not turn the child over. After meeting with Reno for more than two hours yesterday, he said Elian would have to be taken by force. Outside his Miami home early today, a crowd of demonstrators cheered Gonzalez, who said of the meeting, “They didn’t want to listen to us.” Someone shouted, “We’re with you ’til death!” Reno says she regrets Gonzalez’s statements that he won’t turn Elian over. She says it’s up to the Miami relatives to make sure the transfer of custody happens in the “best and least traumatic way.”
A final vote in the South Carolina State Senate is set for today over removing the Confederate flag from the State House dome. Yesterday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a compromise bill to take the flag down. If given the OK today, the bill then goes to the Republican-controlled House, where leaders have already offered their own compromise plan. South Carolina is the only state that flies the Confederate flag above its State House. The NAACP is leading a tourism boycott of South Carolina until the flag is removed. Yesterday, tennis player Serena Williams, who is African American, withdrew from the Family Circle Cup next week in Hilton Head Island. She’s the biggest sports name to back the boycott.
This news from Los Angeles: The police commission has named a panel of experts to root out causes of the city’s widening police corruption and brutality scandal and, if necessary, recommend a sweeping overhaul. The Rampart Independent Review Panel will consist of two dozen experts, including attorneys, professors, management consultants and veterans of the Christopher Commission, which investigated allegations of brutality and racism in the Los Angeles Police Department stemming from the Rodney King beating. The panel plans to issue recommendations in the fall. Almost since the scandal broke last fall, there have been calls for an independent panel to investigate allegations that anti-gang officers in the Rampart Station framed, beat and shot innocent civilians.
This news from Zimbabwe: A judge today ordered the government and police to evict black squatters from white-owned land, rejecting police claims they had insufficient men or equipment to enforce property laws. The court called an urgent hearing after the Commercial Farmers’ Union, representing white farm owners, demanded action in districts where more than 900 farms have been occupied for months. Police have so far failed to evict the squatters, led by armed men claiming to be veterans of the war that led Zimbabwe to independence in 1980. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has backed the occupations, arguing they are a justified protest against unfair land ownership. About 4,000 white farmers own one-third of Zimbabwe’s productive land, while most blacks remain landless and impoverished.
The Russian government said today it’s holding direct talks with rebel representatives on ending the war in Chechnya, one of the strongest signs yet that Moscow wants to end the conflict. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia was conducting a direct dialog with Chechens on ending the conflict and predicted it would lead to concrete results. The statement is a marked reversal from previous claims that Russia will not negotiate with rebels until they surrender their weapons. The Russian military has failed to defeat the rebels, despite occupying much of Chechnya, and has suffered a series of defeats in recent weeks.
A divisive presidential election in Peru has been forced into a runoff. The incumbent president, Alberto Fujimori, fell short of a majority vote in Sunday’s race. He won under 50 percent, compared to around 40 percent of his nearest challenger. During the campaign, Fujimori faced accusations of disrupting political rallies and sponsoring tabloid newspaper attacks.
And this news from Texas: George W. Bush meets today with a select group of gay activists. Conservative groups that support Bush say they are not concerned he’s meeting with gays, just with what he says to them. Campaign aides say the Republican presidential candidate is not changing his conservative views on such issues as gay marriage, which he opposes. There has been a long controversy with George W. Bush saying he would not meet with the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group of Republicans, although when he did go to Bob Jones University he said he often meets with groups with whom he disagrees.