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News Briefs

South Africa Stunned After Fans Die During Soccer Stampede


South Africans on Thursday tried to understand what went wrong at a Wednesday night soccer match in Johannesburg when 43 people were crushed to death during a stampede by thousands of fans trying to enter the overflowing stadium.

“Why? Why? Why?” asked Thursday’s headline in Johannesburg’s main daily newspaper, the Star, beneath a photo of a long row of shoeless victims’ bodies laid out on the soccer field.

As the nation mourned the deaths, with grieving relatives still identifying bodies Thursday, South African President Thabo Mbeki launched an official inquiry into what is being called the nation’s worst sports disaster.

The stampede occurred at a nationally televised game at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg between the country’s top two soccer teams and fiercest rivals: the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Thousands of fans who couldn’t get in the packed 60,000-seat stadium gathered outside the stadium gates just before the 8 p.m. kickoff. As the crowd swelled to 15,000, fans started breaking through entry gates or climbing over fences.

Bush Lets Medical Privacy Rules Take Effect, With Caveats


In a rare defeat for business, the Bush administration said Thursday it would let a set of controversial medical-privacy regulations take effect immediately but would later seek to modify the regulations to address health-care industry concerns.

The surprising decision clears the way for implementation of the first federal medical privacy protections. The health-care industry had launched an aggressive campaign to kill or postpone the rules, which were issued in the waning days of the Clinton administration under the authority of a 1996 law.

The regulations, which will limit the disclosure and distribution of patient records, had been put on hold by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, who appeared sympathetic to industry complaints.

As late as Wednesday, it was widely expected that Thompson would push back the original April 14 effective date to buy time to review more than 24,000 comments submitted during the last two months. But President Bush directed otherwise.

Philippine Soldiers Rescue American Kidnapped by Rebels


Philippine soldiers raided a Muslim rebel camp on Thursday and rescued American hostage Jeffrey Schilling seven months after he was kidnapped.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels had threatened to behead Schilling last week as a “birthday present” to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She responded by declaring “all-out war” on them.

Brig. Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, who led the assault on the rebels on Jolo island 600 miles south of Manila, said Schilling was in good condition. The Oakland, Calif., native was taken to a hospital for a checkup and will return to California in the next few days, officials said.

The United States praised the Philippine government for freeing Schilling, 25, a convert to Islam who was captured in August after he visited the rebels with his new wife, a cousin of one of the rebel leaders.