August 15, 2001

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Undercover Israeli soldiers shot dead a member of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction on Wednesday just as Russia and the United States urged both sides to reopen a channel for dialogue. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave his Foreign Minister the go-ahead to hold high-level talks with the Palestinians but the Palestinians have branded Sharon’s move a farce in light of Israeli forays into Palestinian-controlled territory and the latest assassination, which Israelis called a “targeted killing” in “self defense.” Palestinian activist Imad Abu Sneineh was shot in the head, chest, stomach and legs by 10 bullets fired from a truck outside his home in the divided West Bank city of Hebron a day after Israeli tanks and armored vehicles were reported to have taken up positions close to the town of Bethlehem and the nearby village of Beit Jala both of which are Palestinian controlled. Rafael Krafft reports from Beit Jala, south of Jerusalem.

The editor of Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper and three colleagues are in police custody Wednesday over a report alleging police vehicles were used during a wave of looting of white-owned farms. Police say they are being charged under the colonial era Law and Order Maintenance Act which forbids the publication of false news likely to cause alarm and despondency. Zimbabwe has this week faced some of its worst violence from pro-government militants who illegally occupied white-run farms in the northwest of the country. The US Congress has responded. Since the government has taken the press credentials of all international news organizations that are critical of their programs, Naeem Jeenah reports from neighboring South Africa.

This summer the Quebec government lifted a ban on building small dams on provincial rivers. Private industry is being offered 36 sites on 24 rivers to develop and operate hydroelectric power plants. The government says the projects will bring long-term economic benefits. Although any future development would be subject to public environmental hearings, as well as consultation with aboriginal groups, the lifting of the moratorium has unleashed a backlash. The opposition groups hope to enlist the support of American tourists, especially those who often participate in outdoor activities in the potentially affected areas. Stephen Cooperman reports from Montreal Canada.

3,726 people sit on death row in the United States and since the death penalty was reinstated 24 years ago, 683 have been executed. Four of those executions have taken place in Pennsylvania, which has the fourth largest death row population in the US. But Pennsylvania leads the nation when it comes to the racial disparity among inmates. Of Pennsylvania’s 243 death row inmates, 154 are black, less than half that number are white, though Whites make up 85 percent of the population. The death penalty has come in for some scrutiny this week, as the American Correctional Association, a professional association representing all facets of prison system holds its annual conference and trade show in Philadelphia. While corrections professionals address the meaning and implementation of capital punishment inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, outside, opponents to the death penalty rally for a moratorium. All within a stone’s throw of the Liberty Bell. Miranda Kennedy reports from Philadelphia.

The AP newswire reports that the United States’ threat that it may skip a U.N. conference on racism has created a dilemma for the 175 American non-profit groups registered to attend; with key issues still unresolved – such as an apology for slavery and singling out Israel as racist – AP reports some Americans are trying to decide whether it’s a good idea to go to South Africa, where the conference starts Aug. 31 in Durban. But others complain that news reports like AP’s are missing the point. From New York, Deepa Fernandez reports.