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Chechen Men Between Ages 10-60 To Be Detained by Russian Forces

THE WASHINGTON POST -- MOSCOW

Saying Russian troops have suffered from “tenderheartedness” toward Chechen civilians, Russia’s top commander in the Caucasus said Tuesday his forces henceforth will detain all Chechen males between ages 10 and 60 and take them to a holding camp to check whether they have ties to rebel forces.

The declaration, from Gen. Victor Kazantsev, described a broad crackdown by the Russian military and intelligence services designed to curb the rebel incursions on Russian-held territory in Chechnya that in the last two weeks have stripped the Russian offensive of its victorious sheen. This is an important point, Russian commentators said, because the image of a low-cost conflict must be maintained to ensure the anticipated victory of Acting President Vladimir Putin in the presidential vote scheduled for March 26.

Kazantsev acknowledged what he portrayed as mistakes and naivete in the defense of three towns east and southwest of Grozny, the besieged Chechen capital. Among the mistakes, he said, were troops’ “tenderheartedness” and “groundless trust” in Chechen civilians. As a result, the Russians did not thoroughly search houses, where presumably guns and ammunition, and perhaps rebels themselves, were hidden, he added.

“Now we are compelled to correct these mistakes,” he said. The decision: “Only children aged up to 10 and men over 60, and women, will henceforth be regarded as refugees.”

Stowaways From China Reaching Alarming Numbers

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SEATTLE

Their prison was a 40-foot-long metal box, stuffed deep into the cargo hold of a ship. In darkness lit only by flashlights, 18 men sat on old blankets and cardboard boxes. First, they spent five days at the Chinese docks, waiting to be loaded. Then, a three-week journey across the Pacific.

When immigration officers peeled back the container top this week, 15 blinking, sick men crawled out, barely able to stand. Three others lay dead in the mess inside. The air holes in the canvas top showed where some had tried to punch their way out, only to find themselves buried beneath four other massive containers in the hold of the ship.

“They were virtually entombed there,” said Sharon Gavin, spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. “You had 18 people in total darkness, stuck in this container with their own human waste, exposed to extremely cold temperatures. The people who died may have been dead anywhere from three to seven days, and you’re still stuck in the container with them. It’s disgusting.”

Yet in what is becoming a wave of illegal Chinese immigration on board container ships bound for the West Coast, authorities Tuesday found 19 more stowaways at the Port of Seattle. The arrests, coming just one day after the shipment that left three men dead and 14 others hospitalized, brought to 203 the number of people smuggled in containers over the past year into ports in the United States and Canada.

Employees at AOL HQ Site Dot the Halls with ‘Aye’

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- DULLES, VA.

America Online Inc., whose employees work on a huge headquarters campus that was once a British Aerospace plant, remained remarkably laid back a day after their boss announced the biggest merger in U.S. history.

There were no Time Warner banners or balloons littering the hallways of AOL, located 35 miles from Washington, D.C. Most workers paid little attention to television monitors broadcasting ongoing media analysis and any riches they might reap from the blockbuster AOL/Time Warner deal. And the talk at water coolers was more of pride than of celebration -- a feeling of redemption for a company whose online service has been derisively referred to as the “Internet on training wheels.”

“The immediate reaction was, ‘Wow!’ ” said Jimmy Lynn, director of account services at AOL. “Who would have thought that a little company like AOL would take over Time Warner? I think people who made that comment (about training wheels) are looking at us a lot differently now.”

For AOL, the proposed merger with entertainment giant Time Warner caps a transformation of the company from a high-tech oddity -- some 2,500 miles from Northern California’s Silicon Valley -- to the darling of the online revolution. In the process, AOL’s 12,000 employees have learned to wear their nerdish image and global marketing aspirations with equal aplomb.