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News Briefs

China Keeps Tight Domestic Lid On Latest Spy Incident

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BEIJING

China enforced a strict silence domestically about the reported bugging of its U.S.-made presidential plane Tuesday but indicated that it won’t let the allegations get in the way of an upcoming visit by President Bush.

“I don’t see this affair having an impact on any other issues,”Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said Tuesday.

He would neither confirm nor deny reports last week by the Washington Post and London-based Financial Times that Chinese authorities had found more than 20 eavesdropping devices in a Boeing 767 that had been luxuriously customized in the United States for President Jiang Zemin.

“China is a peace-loving nation that doesn’t pose a threat to anyone. It is completely unnecessary to eavesdrop on China,” Sun told reporters at a routine news briefing. An apparent blackout continued in China’s state-owned media, with censors quickly deleting postings about the reports in Internet chat rooms.

“Please maintain order and do not discuss the bugging incident,” wrote the chat room monitor of the Strong Country Forum Web site, which is maintained by the Communist Party-controlled People’s Daily. Analysts generally agree that the bugging reports reflected badly on Jiang.

FBI Says New Jersey Likely Key to Anthrax Attacks

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

FBI investigators believe that the key to finding a culprit in last fall’s anthrax attacks may be found in central New Jersey, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service plan to hold a news conference in Trenton, N.J., Wednesday to appeal for help from the public and announce a doubling of the reward in the case to $2.5 million, officials said. All of the four anthrax-laced letters obtained by authorities were postmarked at a Trenton postal distribution facility. FBI investigators, stymied by a lack of forensic evidence and slow progress in identifying the source of the deadly spores, hope that a high-profile appeal in New Jersey will shake loose information that could lead to a much-needed break in the case, officials said.

“This is a targeted effort toward central New Jersey,” one FBI official said. “Investigators and others associated with the case continue to believe that whoever did this has a relationship with central Jersey, whether they lived there, worked there or just spent a lot of time there. The key to the case could be there.”

Two weeks ago, FBI agents visited scientific laboratories and offices at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., for an exhaustive look at photocopy machines in use there. The agency has been looking for tiny marks or imperfections that could match a particular photocopy machine with one of the anthrax letters sent to U.S. Senate offices and news companies.

The agency’s frustration in finding the culprit was eased only slightly by an announcement of progress in the effort to decipher the genetic makeup of the anthrax strain used in the attacks.

Amazon Posts First Profits

THE WASHINGTON POST

Amazon.com Inc., the Internet retailer whose fortunes once soared on the promise of online commerce only to be brought back to earth by the dot-com bust, finally accomplished a basic goal of any business: It made a profit.

The net gain of $5.1 million, or 1 cent per share, for the three months that ended Dec. 31 did little to make up for the $2.86 billion in losses the Seattle-based merchant has accumulated since 1994. But it marked a significant reversal for a company that lost $545 million, or $1.53 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

“The company will take a moment to celebrate these results but then we’re moving on,” Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said in a conference call with analysts. “As good as these results are, we’ve got momentum and many more things still in front of us.”

Amazon’s earnings report came the same day one of its brick-and-mortar competitors, Kmart Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection. It was a coincidence that some analysts took as a turning point in the evolution of dot-coms, which were once regarded as revolutionary until the online industry collapsed in red ink last year.

Legislators Condemn Shutdown Of Independent TV Station

THE WASHINGTON POST -- MOSCOW

Several leading Russian legislators Tuesday condemned the government’s decision to take the nation’s largest independent television station off the air, saying the move shows the Kremlin is resolved to control the national media. Press minister Mikhail Lesin defended the closure of TV-6 as proper, and blamed the station’s director for backing out of an agreement that could have allowed the station to continue broadcasting. Lesin held out hope that the station could get back on the air under a temporary permit.

The affair involves many of the same people who took part in last year’s battle over the independent network NTV, but only a fraction of the drama. Political observers said it demonstrates anew that President Vladimir Putin intends to strip two well-known business tycoons, Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky, of any influence over news coverage in Russia.

The Kremlin has publicly accused both men of trying to dictate state policy through their media outlets. The tycoons have countered that Putin is trying to silence criticism. Gusinsky faces criminal charges in Russia and Berezovsky is wanted for questioning; both have denounced the probes as politically motivated and now live abroad. Berezovsky owns 75 percent of TV-6, and allowed Gusinsky and journalists from NTV to manage it after Gusinsky lost control of NTV last year to the natural gas monopoly, Gazprom.