News Briefs

Israeli troops launch attack in Gaza’s refugee camp

At least eight Palestinians were killed in Gaza’s Al-Bureij refugee camp Monday in an attack by Israeli troops. A pregnant woman and a teenager were among the dead. The troops also seized a Hamas co-founder. Palestinian sources said the Israeli operation, which lasted for hours, included 25 tanks. Two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded. Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, urged President George W. Bush to condemn the attacks, adding that they were in preparation for full re-occupation of Gaza.

San Francisco police chief won’t step down

Six top officers charged with conspiracy in the San Francisco Police Department stepped down Monday. They are under investigation for trying to cover up a street brawl that took place three months ago involving a handful of off-duty officers. The officers got into a fight with two other men and prosecutors say police executives tried to cover it up. One of the officers involved had at least 16 violent encounters with suspects in a 13-month period, sending six of them to the hospital. Police Chief Earl Sanders, who is also charged, has refused to step down. Sanders’ attorney, however, said he will take medical leave for an undisclosed reason. Willie Brown, the city’s mayor, has urged the attorneys to throw out the charges. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last year that the police department only solved 28 percent of the city’s violent crimes, the worst record of any major U.S. city.

Portland teachers will work for free

In the midst of budget cuts, Portland, Ore. teachers have ratified a contract that allows them to work 10 days for free and accept a 1 percent pay raise. The slashed funds are the result of one of the worst state budget shortfalls in the country. Beginning teachers in the area earn $28,725, but this contract will equate to a 5 percent pay cut this year. Because of the contract, the 53,000-student Portland school district will not cut their year short.

He’ll put a spell on you

In an upcoming Vanity Fair article, Michael Jackson is reported to have paid for a voodoo curse to kill director Steven Spielberg. The $150,000 ceremony supposedly involved the sacrifice of 42 cows and took place in Switzerland in 2000. The article also claims Jackson wears a prosthetic nose and bleaches his skin because he does not like being black. Jackson has been under scrutiny from the media and the public in recent months. He appeared in court and was seen dangling his child from a hotel balcony last November. In February, a British documentary exposed the King of Pop’s sleeping habits with children and dominated TV sets in American and England. The article also claims Jackson is $240 million in debt.

War decision likely next week

“Time is running out” for Saddam Hussein as Secretary of State Colin Powell urges the United Nations to vote on Iraq resolutions. He suggested that President George W. Bush would decide next week whether to go to war with the Middle Eastern country. Powell said it is necessary for the United Nations and the United States to move forward with action because of the lack of compliance by Hussein. Because of public opinion polls, U.S. officials are not likely to wage war without U.N authority. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, however, that although a vote would be desirable, it is not necessary. France and Germany still lead the opposition in the United Nations.

Cigarette study at VCU

An independent study at VCU has found lower levels of nitrosamines, a carcinogen, in a new cigarette called the Advance. The study, which spanned three weeks, took place at VCU’s Clinical Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory. The smokers were found to have levels of the chemicals in their urine that were 51 percent lower by their fifth day of smoking the new cigarette. Those who did not smoke at all lowered their levels by 70 percent. The participant’s breath, heart rate, carbon monoxide and nicotine levels were also measured. The study was the first by an independent team of researchers to measure the carcinogenic effects of so-called “potential reduced expose products” such as the Advance cigarette, which has been test marketed by Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation and Star Scientific, Inc. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4,000 chemical compounds have been identified in tobacco smoke. Of those, 43 are known to cause cancer.

Australian tries to get over fear of flying

Chris Morris of Australia wanted to cure his fear of flying, so he went on a parachute jump. In a scary moment, the harness strap snagged on the steps of the Cessna as he jumped out in tandem with his instructor and the two men found themselves rotating around the undercarriage of the plane. The pilot attempted to dislodge the strap with a stick and failed. She succeeded by cutting it with a knife. Morris said he would fly again, despite his near-death experience.

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