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News Briefs

Political Turmoil Deepens In Venezuela with Emergency Session

THE WASHINGTON POST -- CARACAS, VENEZUELA

Venezuela was plunged into further political turmoil Sunday as a constituent assembly dominated by supporters of President Hugo Chavez debated whether to strip the opposition-led Congress of its few residual powers and assume total control of legislative affairs.

The 131-member assembly took up the matter in an emergency session Sunday afternoon, five days after the recently installed body issued a decree that banned Congress from passing new laws and severely limited its other legislative functions. But lawmakers have defied the order and in doing so threatened to withhold approval of foreign trips Chavez was to make this week and to block budget appropriations totaling nearly $4 billion unless a compromise can be worked out.

On Friday, street clashes erupted outside the parliament building between supporters and opponents of the president and the new assembly, as lawmakers scaled fences and pushed their way through national guard troops to try to retake their chambers. An agreement brokered by the Roman Catholic Church to seek a peaceful solution to the impasse has since unraveled.

The members of congress “are simply taking obstructive measures because they can, and we are not going to put up with that,” Luis Miquilena, president of the constituent assembly, said in an interview before the special session. But Mireya Rodriguez, head of a congressional faction opposed to Chavez, declared: “This is a coup d’etat. It represents the illegal concentration of power in Chavez and the assembly, which are the same thing. Democracy is dying in Venezuela.”

The assembly was created to rewrite the country’s constitution, but Chavez has insisted that it has broader powers, which include restructuring and abolishing corrupt and inefficient public institutions. The assembly order covering Congress would remain in effect until a new legislative election next year.

Turkish Building Integrity Is Scrutinized

NEWSDAY -- GOLCUK, TURKEY

At the mouth of what was once a grand boulevard near the waterfront, dunes of concrete are so high, those who walk between them never leave a shadow. Denizens of this seacoast town step like zombies and curse the mountains that appeared overnight.

“What is weird,” said Juncay Aydin, who lives on this street, ‘is that all these buildings are new. My building is 20 years old, and it’s still standing.”

His is the only building on his street standing.

When he was a child, he said, most of this land was a swamp. Dirt was trucked in, and corn was planted. And over this former swamp, several seven-story apartment buildings were built within the past five years.

“They built too many floors without any controls,” he said. “The builders didn’t care if the ground was unstable or if the walls were strong enough. They just wanted to build.”

Aydin is a retired merchant marine, but like many survivors of Turkey’s worst natural disaster, he has turned into a civilian prosecutor since the earthquake, joining in a mass indictment of contractors and the officials who allowed them to build substandard structures on unstable land.

Last week, Turkey’s prime minister acknowledged that building codes, which generally are accepted as being equal to those in the rest of Europe, might have been violated.

Whale Culture Still Alive

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- LAMALERA, INDONESIA

Across the blinding seas the wooden boat lumbered, its crew of old fishermen shriveled like beef jerky from decades of sun and work.

This day, like all other days, these men were hunting whales -- in the same way their ancestors did 500 years ago.

With paddles chopped from the trunks of palm trees and faces scrunched from squinting, the fishermen stroked across the water, scanning for signs of life. After hours of searching, one sinewy fisherman, Francis Bole Beding, saw a black fin pop through the surface.

“Di sana! Di sana!” Beding yelled, shaking his fingers at the sea. “Over there! Over there!”

Paddlers yanked on their oars. Beding, a harpooner, scampered to the bow, a crude spear in his hands. He coiled himself, preparing to leap down onto the prey and drive his harpoon deep into its flesh.

In this remote Indonesian village, life revolves around the pursuit of big game. One of the last places on Earth where international law still allows people to hunt whales for food, Lamalera is so steeped in its whaling traditions that it has escaped the tumult sweeping through Indonesia as the country caps its yearlong transition from authoritarian rule to multiparty democracy.

HBO Leads Creative Arts Emmy Awards With 16 Statuettes

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- PASADENA, CALIF.

Home Box Office collected the most honors at Saturday’s nighttime special creative arts Emmy Awards presentation, including multiple statuettes for dramatic series “The Sopranos” and its movies “The Rat Pack” and “Winchell.” Saturday’s nontelevised event encompassed more than 50 categories, primarily in technical areas such as cinematography, editing and sound. An additional 27 awards, recognizing programs and performers, will be presented Sept. 12 and televised on Fox “King of the Hill” claimed one of the night’s biggest prizes in the program categories, as the series was named outstanding animated program -- a statuette taken home by its Fox sibling “The Simpsons” five of the last six years.

Two PBS productions -- “The American Experience” and “American Masters” -- shared honors as best nonfiction series, while the syndicated “The Teen Files: Truth About Drinking” was selected as outstanding children’s program.