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Venezuela to investigate report of miners massacring indians

CARACAS, Venezuela — The authorities in Venezuela said Wednesday that they would investigate claims that illegal Brazilian gold miners massacred a village of Yanomami Indians deep in the Amazon jungle.

It was not clear how many people may have died in the massacre. An account presented to prosecutors Monday said most of the approximately 80 people living in a remote village called Irotatheri were killed.

The massacre occurred in early July, according to the account, which was submitted by a Yanomami organization to prosecutors in Puerto Ayacucho, the capital of Amazonas State in southern Venezuela.

The document said the only survivors of Irotatheri appeared to be three people who had been away from the village hunting when the miners arrived. The village is located along the upper reaches of the Ocamo River.

—William Neuman and Maria Eugenia Diaz, The New York Times

Nation of Georgia says Muslim fighters took hostages

TBILISI, Georgia — Georgian officials said Thursday that the heavily armed militants who penetrated the border from Russia and took five local residents hostage were Muslim fighters who wore camouflage uniforms and carried Russian passports and copies of the Quran.

Georgian security forces engaged in a fierce gunbattle with the band of about 20 militants Wednesday, killing 11 of them. Three Georgian soldiers were also killed.

Thursday, Georgian officials released video showing the bodies of several militants, with their faces obscured, along with a sizable arsenal of automatic weapons, large amounts of ammunition, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, two-way radios, maps, binoculars and other equipment, as well as copies of the Quran.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said the insurgents seemed intent on testing Georgia’s military readiness and on creating additional tension between Georgia and Russia.

—Olesya Vartanyan and David M . Herszenhorn, The New York Times

Judge rules against zoning law limiting x-rated businesses

NEW YORK — A Manhattan judge on Thursday ruled that a 2001 city law was unconstitutional in seeking to reduce the number of stores and clubs that offer a mix of sexual content and other material in neighborhoods where X-rated establishments are banned.

The law sought to plug what the city considered to be a loophole in the 1995 zoning change that banned adult establishments from residential neighborhoods and from being within 500 feet of another such establishment, a school or a place of worship.

The 1995 law defined an adult establishment as any business where more than 40 percent of its material was sexually oriented. By the end of the 1990s, the city came to believe that many of the 60-40 establishments were shams that kept a few shelves of innocuous material to disguise the true nature of their business.

So in 2001, the city broadened the definition to include criteria that would have required most of the 60-40 establishments to close or move to industrial areas.

On Thursday, Justice Louis B. York of state Supreme Court ruled that the mixed-use establishments were not a sham and did not create a public nuisance in their communities, and that the city had sufficient tools to close any establishment that skirted the 40 percent rule.

City lawyers said Thursday that they would appeal.

“We believe the court was right the first time when it ruled that 60-40 establishments have a predominant sexual focus,” Robin Binder of the city’s Law Department said. “The city’s ability to regulate adult establishments is critical to preserving neighborhood quality of life.”

But Herald Price Fahringer, who represented more than 100 video stores in the case, said the suit was not about protecting neighborhoods as much as about free speech and letting the marketplace, rather than government, decide which businesses survive.

“It’s wrong for a city or a state to say, ‘We’re banning this type of literature and we’re not going to allow you to read or see it,’” he said. “That’s just un-American.”

—Russ Buettner, The New York Times

Scores of refugees missing after Australia-bound boat sinks

SYDNEY — Ninety or more people remained missing Thursday after a boat carrying about 150 migrants sank off Indonesia, in another disaster this year for asylum seekers from the Middle East and Asia trying to reach Australia by sea.

TheAustralian home affairs minister, Jason Clare, expressed grave concern for the passengers and said that a “massive” search-and-rescue effort was under way to locate survivors. At least seven commercial ships and one military vessel were combing the waters around 40 nautical miles south of the Indonesian island of Java, he said, where the boat issued the first of two distress calls early Wednesday morning.

Thousands of asylum seekers try to reach the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island each year on rickety, overcrowded vessels, leading to accidents at sea that have killed more than 600 people since late 2009. Australia’s Parliament passed legislation this month to allow boat refugees to be deported to offshore detention centers in an effort to stem the record number of arrivals, but the policy has not yet had any significant impact.

Six survivors were pulled from the wreckage of the ship early Thursday, and 39 more were rescued later in the day by navy and merchant vessels, Clare said. He had warned earlier that rescuers had a shrinking window to locate any additional survivors.

—Matt Siegel, The New York Times