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News Briefs

Turkish Hotel Siege Ends


Richard Adam was enjoying a quiet late-night drink at the bar of his Istanbul hotel when he heard a loud, piercing scream.

“I heard this woman’s voice screeching ‘He’s got a gun,’ recalled the London-based interior designer, who is originally from New York. “I looked up and saw this shiny piece of metal. I thought it was the tip of a very large umbrella, but then I heard this huge guy shouting very loudly, and the next thing I knew everyone was diving for the floor.

“That’s when I realized things were serious, and that he was actually carrying a very big gun,” Adam said.

Adam, 52, was among about 120 guests and staff members who were taken hostage Sunday by pro-Chechen gunmen at a five-star hotel with panoramic views of the Bosporus. A U.S. consular official said 54 Americans were among them.

Their ordeal ended after 12 hours of negotiations between the 13 gunmen and Turkish authorities. All of the hostages were released unharmed.

In a statement faxed to news organizations during their siege of the Swissotel Bosporus, the gunmen said they were trying to draw attention to the plight of the breakaway Russian region of Chechnya, which they said largely had been ignored by the international media.

They demanded that the new Bush administration call on Russian troops immediately to withdraw from Chechnya. The men also demanded an audience with Turkey’s interior minister Sadettin Tantan, which they received Monday morning.

Justices Say a Single Remark Does Not Constitute Sexual Harassment


The Supreme Court stressed again Monday that a single crude remark by a supervisor is not enough to trigger a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The justices threw out a discrimination claim brought by a Las Vegas school official who said she was demoted after complaining about her supervisor’s comment.

In an unsigned opinion, the justices sought to clarify the difference between offensive comments and workplace discrimination.

In recent years, many companies -- out of fear of lawsuits -- have adopted policies that strictly forbid sexist jokes or lewd remarks in the workplace. Those policies have created the perception that the law itself makes such comments illegal.

Federal law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee on the basis of race, sex or religion. And for the past 15 years, the court has said that sexual harassment can be considered illegal sex discrimination because it changes the working conditions for the victim.

But the justices have cautioned that sexual harassment refers to a pattern of “severe or pervasive” abuse, not “a mere offensive utterance.” They have said that a supervisor’s “simple teasing (or) offhand comments” do not violate the law, even if an employee might find them irksome and harassing.