The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 41.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

News Briefs

Court Rules Suharto Too Ill To Stand Trial for Corruption


In a major setback for Indonesia’s democracy movement, a court ruled Thursday that former dictator Suharto is too ill to stand trial on corruption allegations and dismissed all charges against him.

After hearing hours of testimony from an independent medical team, the panel of five judges concluded that the 79-year-old Suharto had suffered such extensive brain damage from a series of strokes that his trial could not go forward.

The judges’ rejected a request from prosecutors that the former ruler be tried in absentia and ordered him freed from house arrest. Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said prosecutors will appeal the decision to the nation’s Supreme Court.

Anti-Suharto protesters, who had earlier set fire to a bus carrying pro-Suharto demonstrators, responded to the ruling by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. One Suharto supporter reportedly was killed. Police fired tear gas and warning shots to break up the crowd, which continued protesting near Suharto’s house long into the evening.

Officials fear the court decision could spark continuing unrest among student demonstrators, whose protests in 1998 helped bring down Suharto after more than three decades of authoritarian rule.

Dr. Zakaria, head of the court-appointed medical team that examined Suharto for 10 hours Saturday, told the judges that the former dictator can no longer “understand complex ideas.”

Federal Government Will Urge People to Delay Getting Flu Shots


Hoping to prevent a potentially deadly shortage of flu shots this winter, the federal government has contracted with a private company to produce as many as nine million extra doses of the lifesaving vaccine and will recommend that millions of people delay getting their shots so those who need them most can get them as they become available.

Those measures should be adequate to fend off a national shortage this winter, a federal advisory committee concluded Thursday. But because manufacturers are having production problems, there won’t be enough vaccine doses available in the next month or two for everyone who might normally get the shots this early in the season, federal health officials said.

So the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Oct. 6 will formally recommend to health professionals that fall vaccination efforts focus primarily on people older than 64, the chronically ill and health-care providers, who are at greatest risk of succumbing to the viral disease or spreading it to others.

Workplace, community and other mass vaccination programs should be delayed by at least a month beyond their usual October starting dates, officials said. And healthy individuals -- including those ages 50 to 64, who were initially slated to be included in this year’s general “high risk” category -- should hold off getting vaccinated until November or December, according to recommendations approved Thursday by the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices.

Without Solution to Oil Prices, OPEC Finishes Summit


Concluding their first summit in 25 years on a conciliatory note, leaders of the world’s major oil-exporting nations called Thursday for a new dialogue with Western consuming countries to find ways to end oil-price gyrations that have drained Americans’ wallets and set off angry protests in Europe.

Heads of state from the 11-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, led by Venezuela’s feisty president Hugo Chavez, stridently asserted their right to a fair price for their oil and criticized consumer countries’ high taxes on oil products.

But OPEC’s presidents, sheiks and princes also agreed that the market volatility of the last two years has hurt producers as well as consumers. Saudi Arabia made a conciliatory pledge to ensure market needs for oil are met, saying it is concerned that high prices could undermine world economic growth.

The OPEC appeal for dialogue with Western leaders -- as soon as a November energy conference in Saudi Arabia -- marked a shift from the embargoes and confrontations of the 1970s toward a quest for common ground. Venezuelan Oil Minister Ali Rodriguez called it a historic maturing of attitudes on both sides.

Nevertheless, it was far from clear whether such a debate could achieve concrete results, not to mention whether Western leaders would even take part in talks that OPEC believes should go far beyond the cost of oil.

Presidential Campaign Spending Evens Out for Candidates


Outside groups led by the AFL-CIO and Handgun Control pumped $3.6 million into television ads backing Al Gore’s presidential campaign over the last three months, compared with $334,505 spent by groups supporting GOP nominee George W. Bush, a study released Wednesday found.

But total spending on the race remains fairly even, according to the report compiled by the University of Wisconsin and New York University Law School, because Bush and the Republican Party have outspent Gore and the Democratic Party. Since June 1, the Bush campaign, the Republican National Committee and GOP-friendly interest groups have spent $38 million, compared with $39.1 million on the Democratic side.

For the week ended Sept. 20, the Bush campaign and the GOP spent $4.2 million, compared with $2.9 million for Gore and the Democrats. But outside groups evened the playing field, spending $1.2 million for Gore compared with $17,227 for Bush.