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News Briefs

Japanese Court Orders Government To Pay for 1945 Explosion


A Japanese court Thursday ruled that the nation’s government is responsible for the deaths of Korean slave laborers from a 1945 explosion on a navy transport ship.

Legal scholars said the decision puts Japan another modest step closer to accepting responsibility for its role in World War II and should make it easier for plaintiffs in an estimated 60 slave-labor cases to obtain compensation.

That said, the results were far from sweeping.

About 80 Koreans, including survivors or relatives of those on board the transport Ukishima Maru, were seeking $25 million in compensation and an official apology. The explosion shortly after the war’s end quickly sank the ship, killing at least 524 Koreans and 25 Japanese crew members.

Instead, 15 plaintiffs -- those the court said it could confirm had lived through the tragedy -- received a total of $375,000, though the court said an apology was beyond its purview.

“They should have received much more, of course,” said Masayoshi Nakata, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “After suffering mental distress for more than half a century, $25,000 per person is hardly enough. And most of all, they sought a heartfelt apology.”

Elizabeth Dole Decides To Change Voter Registration


Signaling strong interest in running for the Senate in North Carolina next year, Elizabeth Dole on Thursday asked county officials in Kansas to remove her from the voting rolls there and said she planned to register “in another jurisdiction” in the near future.

Dole’s husband, former Senate majority leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Robert Dole, told MSNBC that he was “almost prepared” to say she will be a candidate soon. Other Republicans also are jockeying for the chance to succeed Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC).

White House and national party officials regard Dole as the strongest candidate the GOP could find to run for the Helms seat and hope her entry into the race will avoid a divisive primary next spring. But one Republican strategist said Thursday that former Charlotte mayor Richard Vinroot could enter the GOP race as early as Friday.

With the Democrats holding a one-seat margin in the Senate, Republicans can’t afford to lose the Helms seat in 2002 if they hope to recapture control. Dole’s seen as highly popular in her home state but ran a disappointing race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

China Acknoledges Rise In AIDS Infections


Breaking a long public silence, the government said Thursday that nearly as many people have contracted the AIDS virus in China by selling their blood as have been infected through sexual contact. And the Health Ministry reported 67 percent more people tested HIV-positive during the first half of this year than during the same period last year, suggesting the disease may be spreading twice as fast as previously reported.

The disclosures followed months of government denials of reports by China’s state-run newspapers and foreign media about villages in central China where large numbers of farmers who sold their blood to supplement their meager incomes are now dying of the disease.

The government had argued that sale of blood was a minor factor in the spread of AIDS and gagged its own journalists after they began reporting about it last year.

The issue has been particularly sensitive here because of allegations that local officials encouraged and profited from the practice, even after it was officially banned in 1995.