The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 30.0°F | Partly Cloudy

News Briefs

N.C. Attorney General’s Request May Delay Death Penalty Ruling


Citing a new state law barring executions of mentally retarded prisoners, North Carolina’s attorney general has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal that challenges the constitutionality of such executions. The move could delay one of the most significant and highly anticipated rulings on capital punishment since the restoration of the death penalty in 1976, legal experts said.

The court, which ruled in 1989 that such executions were permissible under the Constitution, announced in March that it would revisit the issue during its next term in the appeal of a North Carolina inmate, Ernest McCarver, who contends he is mentally retarded.

On Saturday, however, North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley (D) signed a bill barring executions of convicted killers who fit the new law’s definition of mentally retarded. The law would apply retroactively to McCarver and others found to have IQs of less than 70 before they turned 18.

State prosecutors argue that McCarver, 41, doesn’t meet the new test but contend that the new law allows him to seek a North Carolina judge’s ruling on whether he is mentally retarded.

“If the state court determines that Mr. McCarver is mentally retarded, he will have his sentence reduced to life and avoid the death penalty,” the North Carolina attorney general’s office said Monday in a letter to the Supreme Court. As a result, the office said, McCarver’s Supreme Court appeal has been rendered moot and should be dismissed.

Khatami’s Second Term Delayed As Power Struggle Flares Up


Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will be sworn in for a second term Wednesday -- three days later than scheduled -- after officials settled a dispute between hard-liners and reformers that underscored a potentially explosive struggle for power.

The latest showdown between the ideological foes erupted over appointments to the Guardian Council, an oversight panel with authority to nullify any action taken by Iran’s Majlis, or parliament. On Saturday, the reform-controlled assembly had rejected four candidates nominated by the judiciary, saying they were politically biased and inexperienced.

But the subtext of the fight was the question of who will control the future of Iran, elected officials or appointed conservatives. In this volatile environment, the otherwise routine matter of filling vacancies turned into a political crisis when the nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the president could not be sworn in until the parliament accepted the nominees.

The dispute ended after a conservative panel decided Monday night to bend the rules governing the confirmation process and the two posts were filled from among the rejected nominees.

U.S. Grants First U.S. Airline Service to Vietnam


The Transportation Department Tuesday tentatively granted Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, and United Airlines access to Vietnam, the first U.S. airline service since the Vietnam war.

Under terms agreed to by the United States and Vietnam, the three U.S. airlines could not use their own aircraft to fly into the country, but could code-share with partner airlines. Under a code-share arrangement, an airline sells tickets under its own name or code, but the service is provided by another airline.

Delta would code share with Air France, Northwest with Malaysia Airlines, and United with All Nippon Airlines, Thai Airways International, and Lufthansa German Airlines.

“Travelers now will have access to Vietnam in conjunction with U.S. airline services for the first time in decades,” Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said in a statement. “Today’s action is an important step in what I am confident will be a growing aviation relationship between the United States and Vietnam in coming years.”

The airlines would be allowed seven U.S.-Vietnam flights each per week to Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam Airlines now has a code-sharing arrangement with China Airlines, the only current direct U.S.-Vietnam service. Vietnamese airlines will be allowed additional code-sharing flights to the United States using third-country airline partners.

Vatican Answers Critics In War Archives Dispute


The Vatican on Tuesday accused some Jewish historians on a joint Catholic-Jewish research commission of having “a clear propagandistic goal to damage the Holy See” as they press for access to its World War II archives.

The historians have leaked “distorted and tendentious news” and are guilty of “irresponsible behavior,” said the statement, issued with Vatican approval by the Rev. Peter Gumpel, a German Jesuit priest.

The statement came in response to last month’s announcement from the five-member commission, set up in 1999 to study the role of the Pope Pius XII and the Holy See in Europe during Hitler’s Third Reich, that it could not continue its work until it could see unpublished documents in the archives.

Gumpel said it was “false” that the Vatican was withholding information, but that 3 million pages of documents remained uncatalogued and were thus unusable by scholars.

U.S. Jewish groups immediately condemned his statement. “It is essential for the Jewish and Catholic scholars to continue their work in disclosing the Vatican’s role during the Holocaust, which must consist of impartial analysis of all relevant historical records so that the truth may emerge,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “Unfounded accusations can only create further delay in the process.”