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Liberian Parties Choose Leader for Interim Government


Liberia’s warring parties on Thursday chose a mild-mannered businessman to lead an interim government until 2005.

Delegates from the government and two rebel factions, meeting in Accra, Ghana, chose Gyude Bryant, 54, an Episcopal Church leader, a heavy equipment dealer and the head of a minor political faction, the Liberian Action Party.

Under the terms of the Accra accord, the new head of the interim government -- the title will be chairman, not president -- had to be an outsider who was not aligned with the three warring parties.

“I see myself as a healer,” Bryant said in Accra.

Taylor’s immediate successor, his vice president, Moses Blah, will resign in October. The interim government led by Bryant is to try to help hold Liberia together until elections set for Oct. 2005.

Bryant’s selection came as a surprise to many diplomats and foreign officials here, and to many Liberians as well. Most had expected the chairmanship to go to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, 64, a former international banker and senior U.N. official who had led the list of candidates submitted by the government’s negotiators to the rebel parties for their approval.

Ashcroft Criticized For Patriot Act Promotional Speeches


Attorney General John Ashcroft faced sharp criticism on Thursday from Democrats and others over his decision to give more than a dozen speeches around the country in defense of anti-terrorism legislation passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr., of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told Ashcroft in a letter that he should either “desist from further speaking engagements” or explain why they do not violate restrictions on political activities by government officials.

Conyers said that the speeches in defense of the USA Patriot Act, as the anti-terrorism law is known, appeared to conflict with congressional restrictions preventing the use of Justice Department money for “publicity or propaganda purposes not authorized by Congress.” He said they might also violate the Anti-Lobbying Act and its restrictions on grassroots lobbying on legislative matters.

Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union raised similar concerns about Ashcroft’s speaking tour, which began this week in Washington, Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Des Moines and will continue over the next three weeks. The message in all of the speeches has been that despite rising criticism the Patriot Act has proved an essential tool in fighting terrorism.

Barbara Comstock, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said Ashcroft’s speaking tour had been thoroughly reviewed by department lawyers and was “entirely appropriate” under federal law.

New Orbital Infrared Telescope To Launch Monday


An infrared telescope is set to launch early Monday on a mission to peek into the dark, cold and ancient corners of the universe.

NASA’s Space Infrared Telescope Facility is the last of four spacecraft -- including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory -- designed to view the cosmos across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

SIRTF, as the telescope is known, will peer through gaseous dust clouds at stars being formed and capture detailed images of little-known primeval galaxies. The observatory’s super-cooled sensors will detect dark, cold masses other telescopes have been unable to see.

“It’s expected to produce as many breakthroughs in infrared light as Hubble did in visible light,” said Harold Reitsema, Ball’s director of advanced programs for space sciences.

Added Charlie Pellerin, former director of astrophysics for NASA: “This is like 500 years ago when people sent ships out to the new world. These observatories are like ships going out to the universe and bringing back information that will change the world in ways we don’t even know yet.

Guardian Sought For Fetus Of Retarded Floridian


Gov. Jeb Bush dispatched state lawyers to court here on Thursday to argue that the fetus of a retarded rape victim was entitled to its own guardian, a position that both sides of the abortion debate saw as an attempt to weaken Roe v. Wade.

A Florida circuit court judge denied requests this spring to appoint a guardian for the fetus, even as he approved a guardian for the mother, who is 22, and who is believed to be nine months pregnant and identified only as JDS. An Orlando woman seeking to be the fetus’ guardian appealed the decision, and Bush drew national attention to the case by intervening on her behalf in May.

Bush opposes abortion, and critics have accused him of trying to chip away at abortion rights by establishing legal protection for fetuses.

In oral arguments before a three-member panel of the 5th District Court of Appeals, an assistant state attorney general said the guardian of the severely retarded mother could not be depended on to make the best decisions for the fetus.

Such decisions might range from whether to abort the fetus to what kind of prenatal care and childbirth the mother has, said the state lawyer, George L. Waas. The question of abortion is moot in this case because state law prohibits late-term abortions unless the mother’s life or well-being is at stake.