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News Briefs

Bush Seeks to Support Steelworkers

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WEST MIFFLIN, PA

President Bush joined more than 1,000 steelworkers for a family picnic Sunday and won their hearty approval as he vowed to protect the domestic steel industry against illegal foreign imports, calling it a matter of “national security.”

The president also expressed concern that the manufacturing sector is “a lot slower than I would hope,” noting that the U.S. economy has grown “at a paltry 1 percent” over the past 12 months.

“It worries me, first and foremost, for the effect that’s going to have on the families all across America,” Bush said, adding that his administration is “taking action.”

As examples, he cited debt reduction, the $1.35 trillion tax cut and the pursuit of a fair trade policy that is “going to have a level playing field as its component.”

The president made his pledge to maintain a strong domestic steel industry during a 12-minute speech before flying to Williamsport, Pa., to attend the Little League World Series championship game.

There, Bush threw out the ceremonial first ball and was inducted into the league’s hall of fame -- in recognition of the fact that he is the first president to have played Little League ball.

The day trip comes as the president winds down his monthlong “working vacation” at his ranch near Crawford, Texas. Bush is scheduled to return to Washington on Thursday.

Hunt Continues for Nikolay Soltys

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SACRAMENTO

Just who is Nikolay Soltys and where has he gone?

Suspected in the horrific murders of a half-dozen family members in the suburbs of the California capital, the 27-year-old immigrant remains a mystery.

As the nationwide hunt for the Ukrainian-shoemaker-turned-fugitive stretches toward a second week, detectives are struggling with a puzzle missing far too many pieces.

Language barriers, cultural baggage and welling fear in the immigrant neighborhoods of Sacramento County have slowed the search for clues.

Misinformation is rampant. Doors have been locked, kids pulled off the streets.

“Now everyone is inside,” said Roman Romaso, executive director of the Slavic Community Center. “Everyone is afraid.”

Basic questions remain unanswered: questions about Soltys’ motives, his state of mind and his movements since the awful hours Monday when he allegedly stabbed his pregnant wife, butchered four other relatives and lured his 3-year-old son into a cardboard box with toys and then slashed his throat.

Freed Haitian Police Official Awaits Ruling on Coup Charges

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MIAMI

A magistrate in Haiti has freed one of the island nation’s most respected police officials from jail and will rule Monday whether to drop all charges of coup-plotting and murder against former chief investigator Mario Andresol.

The 40-year-old deputy commissioner -- considered a Haitian-style Frank Serpico by U.S. officials who trained the Haitian National Police force -- left for home in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Saturday. That was nearly three weeks after a lower-court judge had ruled his arrest “illegal and arbitrary” and ordered his immediate release.

Diplomatic observers in Haiti say the case underscores the sorry state of the 3,000-member police force. It was created by the U.S. Justice Department with over $50 million in U.S. funds after Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded the country’s brutal army.

Those observers say that Aristide, who was returned to power in 1994 by an American intervention against the military dictatorship that overthrew him, has been politicizing the police. The observers and Haitian police sources say independent-minded police officials such as Andresol have been replaced in key positions by loyalists from Aristide’s Lavalas Family party since the former Roman Catholic priest was elected to a second term in November.