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News Briefs

Death Penalty Issue Delayed In Wendy’s Massacre Case

A judge Monday granted prosecutors a 60-day extension to determine whether one of the suspects in the Wendy’s massacre case is mentally retarded, which would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

Assistant District Attorney Charles Testagrossa said Monday that an attorney for Craig Godineaux, one of the suspects in the case, had raised the claim within the last two to two-and-a-half weeks.

New York bans capital punishment against the mentally retarded.

Godineaux, 30, and John Taylor, 36, are charged with 50 counts of first-degree and second-degree murder, attempted murder, robbery and weapons possession in the killing of five people in the May 24 blood bath at the Wendy’s on Main Street in Queens. Two other workers were wounded and survived the slaughter.

Godineaux’s claim that he shouldn’t be executed for the crime because he is mentally retarded did not sit well with the 50 or so relatives of the victims, who packed State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens Monday.

JaQuione Johnson, 18, who survived the shooting, sat in the third row of the courtroom, a long scar from his neck to his scalp.

“He ain’t retarded at all,” he said after the emotional hearing.

EU Members Pledge Troops, Supplies for Rapid Reaction Force

European Union defense ministers Monday pledged troops and materiel for a 60,000-strong Rapid Reaction Force that could act in crises on the continent when NATO, and in particular the United States, chooses not to engage.

Under the plan, by 2003 the force would be able to deploy to hot spots within 60 days and sustain itself in a humanitarian, peacekeeping or conflict operation for up to two years.

The new force and the nature of its relationship with NATO has been the subject of an intense transatlantic debate since it was first mooted at an EU meeting in Helsinki a year ago, but EU and NATO officials again stressed Monday that the relationship will be complementary.

NATO secretary general George Robertson said on BBC radio Monday that the EU force is “designed to complement NATO and not to duplicate it or undermine it, certainly not to replace it.”

Taiwan’s Stock Market Plunges

Taiwan’s stock market plunged Monday amid fears of a looming banking crisis and deepening political turmoil.

The nation’s key stock index fell 6.23 percent, to its lowest close since China fired missiles into waters off Taiwan in March 1996. Finance Minister Yen Ching-chang sought to reassure investors during legislative testimony that Taiwan’s banks are healthy, but the drop immediately renewed anxiety over forecasts that the island faces a financial crisis in the coming months.

The country’s political future remained uncertain, too. President Chen Shui-bian, elected in Taiwan’s first democratic transition of power from the long-ruling Nationalist Party, is struggling to survive an opposition drive to end his six-month-old presidency.

The crisis began with his decision last month to stop construction of a $5.5 billion nuclear power plant, but it has become a fight over who should govern the island: Chen, who was elected with only 39 percent of the vote, or the Nationalists, who still control the parliament.