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News Briefs I

Former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, 90, Dies

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Retired Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the shy, soft-spoken Minnesotan whose opinion legalizing abortion set off a loud and bitter national debate, died Thursday at age 90.

Blackmun’s 24-year career saw one of most remarkable transformations in the court’s history. He was best known, however, as the author of Roe vs. Wade, the 7-2 decision that gave women a constitutional right to choose abortion. The 1973 decision made him a hero to millions of American women and a villain to nearly as many others.

His court colleagues eulogized him as a meticulous, hard-working jurist as well as a kind, considerate friend. Once assigned the task, Blackmun plunged in wholeheartedly. He spent weeks researching the history of abortion dating back to Persian and Roman times. More so than any current justice, Blackmun focused on the plight of the people whose cases came before the court. While his colleagues focused analytically on the law, Harry Blackmun asked about the individuals involved. His job was to do justice, not just decide a legal question, he told clerks.


Albright Presses for Trial Of Khmer Rouge Leaders

THE WASHINGTON POST -- JAKARTA, Indonesia

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said Thursday the United States wants to see the top Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia brought before an international genocide tribunal, and she dismissed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s warning that such a trial could trigger a renewed civil war.

“We want these top leaders to be brought to justice, and we support an international tribunal,” Albright said at a news conference in Bangkok with Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan before traveling on to Jakarta. “We disagree with the point that Hun Sen and others in his leadership have made that bringing these people to justice would be destabilizing.”

“To the contrary,” Albright said, “we think it is the only way to reconciliation.”

In a letter sent Thursday to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Hun Sen said that while his government “never rejected the accountability of the Khmer Rouge leaders for the crimes of genocide,” he was urging caution because a tribunal could risk the country’s fragile national reconciliation.


U.S. Trade Representative Sees Progress in Chinese Trade Talks

THE WASHINGTON POST -- BEIJING

U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said Thursday that China had demonstrated a “new seriousness” in critical trade negotiations with the United States but ruled out any special deal on Chinese entry to the World Trade Organization.

Finshing two days of what she called “constructive talks” with senior Chinese officials, Barshefsky said. This upbeat view of the tough trade negotiations with Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng and Premier Zhu Rongji marked a major turnabout from just several months ago when Chinese and U.S. officials said talk of China joining the WTO was dead. In a sign of her optimism, Barshefsky said she was leaving behind several members of her negotiating team to continue negotiations with the Chinese.

The turnabout comes as U.S. and Chinese officials are scrambling to find a centerpiece for the scheduled trip next month of China’s Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to the United States.