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News Briefs

Venezuela’s Opposition Demands Chavez Recall Referendum

The New York Times -- CARACAS, Venezuela

The Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations announced his resignation Thursday, saying he could no longer support a government he accused of violating democratic principles and human rights.

Milos Alcalay’s announcement in New York energized foes of President Hugo Chavez, who have protested and called for international pressure after electoral authorities sidelined a referendum on recalling Chavez from office.

The opposition accuses National Guard troops of beating and detaining demonstrators who violently protested the National Electoral Council’s ruling on Tuesday that the opposition had not collected enough signatures to force a referendum. Seven people have been killed since last Friday, the latest on Thursday in the western town of Machiques.

“Today, human rights in my country, I consider, are being violated,” Alcalay told reporters at the United Nations.

The Organization of American States and Atlanta-based Carter Center, monitors of the signature collection, have criticized the council’s decision. The opposition needed 2.4 million signatures to force a referendum but only 1.8 million were validated.

Three American Muslims Guilty Of Trying To Aid Pakistani Terrorists

The New York Times -- ALEXANDRIA, Va.

In a victory for the Bush administration’s campaign to root out home-grown terrorism, a federal judge convicted three American Muslims on Thursday of conspiring to help a Pakistani group wage “violent jihad” against Indian forces in Kashmir and possibly U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Federal prosecutors had portrayed the men, two of them U.S.-born converts and one a Pakistani immigrant, as radical Muslims who had prepared to fight for Islamic causes overseas by acquiring weapons and playing paintball in Virginia, as well as training at a camp for mujahadeen fighters in Pakistan.

The defense had disputed that depiction, arguing the men were moderate Muslims who played paintball purely for fun and never intended to hurt Americans. They asserted the prosecution had been driven by anti-Muslim bias.

Elections Panel Considers More Rules To Curb Soft Money

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

The Federal Election Commission proposed new rules on Thursday that could severely curtail the work of organizations established to get around fund-raising restrictions in the new campaign finance law.

The groups, known as “527 committees” for the section of the tax code that created them, are able to raise and spend unlimited “soft money” contributions to broadcast television commercials and turn out voters.

The proposed rules drew protests from both Republican and Democratic groups, though it is the Democrats who may be most affected because they have turned most heavily to these organizations as a way to compete against the vast fund-raising advantage of President Bush and the Republican Party.

Several of these groups have already played roles in the current presidential race and were specifically established to circumvent the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. The law bars the national political parties themselves from raising such large dollar donations.