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News Briefs

Bosnian Muslims Return to War Crimes Site for Memoral Service

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- POTOCARI, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

About 3,000 Bosnian Muslims in a heavily guarded convoy of buses passed through jeering crowds of Serbs on Tuesday to pray here at the spot where thousands of men and boys were rounded up for slaughter five years ago.

A massive security operation prevented any serious violence as thousands of Bosnian Serb police officers worked alongside U.S. and other Western troops and United Nations police.

But the effort to protect Muslims returning to a region where they once lived showed how difficult it still is for many Bosnians to go home five years after the war’s end, despite foreign promises to reverse “ethnic cleansing.”

On the eve of Tuesday’s memorial service, someone burned down the house of a Bosnian Muslim planning to move back to Srebrenica, the town adjacent to this Bosnian village. Only three Muslim civilians have returned and stayed in an area where their ethnic group made up about 70 percent of the population before the 3 1/2-year war began in 1992.

Bosnian Serb forces massacred more than 7,000 Muslims in a few days following the fall of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, after Dutch troops in the U.N. peacekeeping force surrendered what was supposed to be a “safe area” where the security of refugees was assured.

FDA Approves Medical Robotic Device Designed for Surgery

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the first robotic medical device that performs surgery.

The technology, surgeons say, eventually could transform very invasive operations -- such as open-chest heart surgery -- by enabling doctors to use only small incisions.

With approval of the Da Vinci Surgical System, the surgeon’s hand for the first time will be extended far beyond the human touch -- another technological leap in an era that already has seen the stuff of science fiction, such as transplants, cloning and test-tube babies, become routine.

Guided by a surgeon who sits in front of a console with a computer and video monitor, the system performs laparoscopic surgery, such as gall bladder and other abdominal operations.

The surgeon uses hand grips and foot pedals on the console to control three robotic arms that perform the surgery, using a range of different surgical instruments.

Russian Prosecutors Continue Probe of Media Mogul’s Finances

THE WASHINGTON POST -- MOSCOW

Russian prosecutors returned to the headquarters of media baron Vladimir Gusinsky Tuesday as part of a broadened financial investigation that critics charge is Kremlin-inspired harassment of the owner of Russia’s major independent television network.

Prosecutors also sent a threatening letter to Vladimir Potanin, another wealthy businessman, disputing the price he paid in a 1995 privatization deal for the world’s largest nickel and palladium producer, Norilsk Nickel, and demanding that he pay another $140 million. Potanin rejected the demand.

Simultaneously, Russian tax police said they were investigating alleged tax avoidance in 1998-99 by Lukoil, Russia’s largest oil company, and its president, Vagit Alekperov, who denied wrongdoing.

It was not clear if the three attacks were coordinated. But they intensified an atmosphere of uncertainty about the government’s approach to the group of businessmen known as the “oligarchs” -- tycoons who gained their fortunes during the early years of Russia’s transition to capitalism.

A prominent banker said he fears that President Vladimir Putin has given the security services and prosecutors a green light to go after them.