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News Briefs

Military Releases Four Prisoners From Guantanamo Bay


U.S. military authorities have released four prisoners who had been held for months at the Navy detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and will release others soon, officials said.

The four -- three Afghans and a Pakistani -- are the first group to be released from the prison since it began housing detainees captured abroad in January. But even as they were being flown back to their home countries over the weekend, another group of about 30 new captives was flown into the detention facility from Afghanistan.

“Senior leadership of the Department of Defense, in consultation with other U.S. government officials, determined that these four detainees no longer posed a threat to U.S. security,” chief Defense Department spokesman Victoria Clarke said Monday at a Pentagon news conference. The men were released Saturday.

U.S. officials declined to release the names or nationalities of the men, but sources in Pakistan identified the freed Pakistani detainee as Mohammed Sagheer, 60, who is from the North-West Frontier Province that borders Afghanistan. Pakistani newspapers reported that officials there said they will debrief Sagheer before releasing him to his family in the town of Mansehra.

Democrats Despair Chances Of Winning Back the House


Even though history and economics are on their side, many Democrats are despairing of their chances of winning control of the House of Representatives this fall -- unless something dramatic changes between now and the Nov. 5 elections.

Democrats’ hopes of translating voter anxieties about the economy into political gains large enough to win a House majority have been stubbornly hard to fulfill, as pocketbook issues have been eclipsed in the media by the prospect of war with Iraq and the Washington-area sniper killings.

“Things are very close,” said Peter Fenn, a Democratic political consultant. “If I had to look at it right now, I’d have trouble doing the math in such a way that the Democrats pick up” the six seats needed to win back the majority they lost in 1994.

Fenn, like other Democrats, still thinks it is possible the party can pull an upset on Election Day -- especially if last week’s arrests in the sniper case bring an end to the random shootings, potentially clearing the way for more public attention to the Democrats’ message.

APEC Leaders Agree To Tighten Anti-Terror Measures


Calling terrorism a threat to free trade, Pacific Rim leaders pledged Sunday to introduce by 2005 tighter, high-tech monitoring of cargo and passengers moving across their borders and to reinforce cockpit doors on their airliners by next April.

The commitments, expected to cost tens of millions of dollars, marked an advance in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The Bush administration pushed for their adoption by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC, whose 21 members account for half of all international trade and contain most of the world’s busiest seaports and airports.

President Bush left APEC’s two-day gathering here with backing from its members for a demand that North Korea give up its recently disclosed effort to build nuclear weapons.