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News Briefs I

U.S., Japan Sign Plan to Reduce Troops Numbers in Okinawa Base

The Washington Post

Fourteen months after the rape of a schoolgirl by American servicemen sparked massive protests on Okinawa, U.S. and Japanese officials have concluded an agreement that will reduce the size of American military bases on the island but maintain present troop strength there.

Defense Secretary William J. Perry, who was scheduled to elaborate on provisions of the accord at a news conference here later Monday, told reporters traveling with him to Tokyo that he views the accord not as "an epilogue to a troubled past, but as a prologue to a bright future" in U.S.-Japan security relations.

The deal calls for the United States to return to Japanese control more than 12,000 acres of land on Okinawa - about 21 percent of what it now occupies - and consolidate its remaining bases, thus lowering U.S. visibility on the crowded island without reducing the number of troops based there. Most of the 12,000 acres is to be turned over to Japan within five to seven years, and all of it by 2008.

The centerpiece of the plan calls for the U.S. military to relinquish control of Futenma Air Base, a busy facility in the middle of a densely populated area that draws persistent complaints from residents about noise, pollution and accidents. That base is to close down within seven years, and both sides have agreed to move U.S. Marine helicopter operations from Futenma to a floating heliport anchored off another U.S. base on the island.

Army Factions Square Off In Central African Republic

The Washington Post
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast

Factions within the army of the Central African Republic fought in its capital Sunday in the impoverished nation's fourth military mutiny this year.

Rebel troops, reportedly mainly of the Yakoma tribe, seized the main armory and other key points on Saturday, according to news agency and radio reports from the capital, Bangui. As during the previous revolts, French troops guarded key installations to prevent the government's overthrow.

News reports said several people, including civilians, had been killed in the fighting, which involved mainly small-arms fire. Civilians were fleeing parts of the city, notably the rebel-held sections, out of fear that the government might persuade French forces to conduct an airstrike against the rebels, a local journalist told BBC radio by phone.

Many Yakoma troops reportedly oppose President Ange-Felixe Patasse because in 1993 he won election against a Yakoma military officer, Andre Kolimba, who had ruled the Central African Republic for 12 years.

France created the country in 1894 as a colony to allow French businesses to produce rubber and mine diamonds there. Paris gave the underdeveloped country independence in 1960, but has continued to prop up, or overthrow, its governments. It remains one of Africa's poorest nations.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Generic Fruit Advertising

Los Angeles Times

In skeptical questioning Monday, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court sharply disputed the need for the government to require agricultural producers to pay for generic advertising to promote their crops.

The requirements, in the form of federal and state government "marketing orders" that collect as much as a combined $1 billion a year, are deeply rooted in California farming on products ranging from milk to peaches.

"What's the government's interest here? That's what I don't understand." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in the opening moments of Monday's argument.

Added Justice Antonin Scalia, "This sounds like something time-warped out of the 1930s," when the government during the New Deal era tried to make itself a partner with industry.

The marketing programs indeed stem from a New Deal era law, the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1937. But during the 1960s and 1970s, federal officials expanded their marketing control efforts through generic advertising programs funded by growers.

These days, their simple messages appear on billboards - "It's the Cheese" to promote California cheese - or in newspaper and TV ads for beef, milk or raisins. Some promotions are nationwide, administered under federal marketing orders, while other programs tout the products of individual states - Florida oranges, for example. California has 47 promotion programs for commodities produced in the state.