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News Briefs

Boston's Red-Light District Flickers

The Washington Post

It is known officially as the Lower Washington Street Adult Entertainment District, but everyone calls it the Combat Zone.

It is the place where the commercial sex industry finds its public, and where Boston - a city once synonymous with sexual prudery - has carried out a successful containment strategy by creating one of the few formal red-light districts in North America.

Now the red light is flickering, about to be extinguished by a convergence of trends here. The story of the Combat Zone's brief heyday, long decline, and imminent fall is an instructive tale of sex, money, violence and urban development.

The area acquired its name before it became zoned for sex. Initially, it was home to a number of small tailor shops, and troops shipped through Boston during World War II got their uniforms altered there. When members of different branches bumped into each other on the sidewalks, combat often erupted.

Later, during the 1950s and 1960s, Boston, like many cities, embarked on a large-scale "urban-renewal" effort, which involved leveling districts of the city and replacing them with new office towers and apartment buildings.

One of the last places to go under the wrecker's ball was Scollay Square, which had been home to Boston's burlesque houses. When the area was torn down to make way for the new City Hall and government center, the honky-tonk businesses migrated to the Combat Zone.

During the late 1980s, the Zone's fate was sealed, according to Robert Campbell, the architecture critic for The Boston Globe and a student of urban development.

Rushdie Asks France for Help In Ending Iranian Death Threat

Los Angeles Times

Salman Rushdie - the author whom Iran six years ago marked for death for his book The Satanic Verses - met France's highest politicians on Monday, winning assurances they would lead a European effort to persuade Iran to declare a "cease-fire" on him.

"I think we are at the beginning of a very serious step," Rushdie said after meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and other top French officials.

"This is a situation that can be resolved, but what is needed is the will," the British writer told a well-guarded news conference at the French National Assembly. "And this visit has been an important step in creating the will to remove the deadlock."

After meeting with Rushdie, Juppe, the French foreign minister, said pressure on Iran had failed so far in Rushdie's case. But he declared that France was prepared to bring the issue up again next month among European foreign ministers, which Juppe will chair.

"We are ready to take new initiatives in this direction," he said. He added that "new pressures" might be necessary, if Iran did not comply, though he declined to say whether those pressures might include sanctions or diplomatic isolation.

Bosnian Truce Near Collapse

Los Angeles Times
ZAGREB, Croatia

The faltering truce in Bosnia-Herzegovina teetered near collapse Monday when heavy fighting broke out in central and eastern Bosnia, killing and injuring dozens and dashing hopes that spring will bring a permanent thaw in the protracted civil war.

Officials with the U.N. Protection Force said early-morning fighting in and around the towns of Travnik and Tuzla was the worst since the two sides launched a four-month cease-fire on Jan. 1, as part of a peace initiative by former U.S. President Carter.

The battles came after more than a week of increasingly deadly flare-ups in the capital of Sarajevo, including sniper fire that ripped a hole in an airplane carrying the U.N. special envoy to the former Yugoslavia. Three people were killed in weekend sniper attacks , and at least a dozen have been gunned down since the cease-fire began.

"We are seriously concerned about the status of the cessation of hostilities agreement," said U.N. spokesman Christopher Gunnes. "We are at the point where we are asking: When can you say something is really dead?'"