Marchers decry plan to expand American base

Published February 18, 2007

Tens of thousands of people marched through the northeastern city of Vicenza under heavy police guard on Saturday to protest a planned U.S. military base expansion. The march took place without incident, as hundreds of police officers stood guard and helicopters hovered overhead. The route did not pass the airfield where the expanded base is to be built, where critics keep a permanent picket. Police estimated the crowd at 50,000 to 80,000, while organizers put the numbers at 120,000. The Ederle base has about 2,900 active duty military personnel. The expansion at the Dal Molin airport, on the other side of town, would allow the U.S. military to move four battalions now based in Germany, raising the number to 5,000.

Report blames crew for crash

A pilot-in-training who failed to maintain a Russian passenger jet's speed was partly to blame for the jet slamming into a Ukrainian field last year, killing all 170 on board, a transport commission said Saturday. The Pulkovo Airlines Tu-154 went down on Aug. 22, 2006, near Donetsk after its crew sent distress signals as a storm raged in the area. The Interstate Aviation Committee said in a report that the pilots were inadequately prepared for flying under the stormy conditions and for their efforts to maneuver the plane through the storm. The commission also said the instructions for the plane contained no appropriate guidance for flying under those conditions. The crash was one of three major disasters involving a Russian airline or airport in 2006.


Bird flu cases near Moscow confirmed

Tests have confirmed the presence of the H5N1 bird flu strain in poultry found dead in two suburban Moscow districts, Alexei Alexeyenko, a spokesman for the federal agricultural oversight agency, said Saturday. It is the first such outbreak to be recorded so close to the Russian capital. Alexeyenko said officials were awaiting results on tests taken in a third suburban district where 44 birds were reported to have died Saturday. Russia had its first reported cases of the H5N1 strain in Siberia in 2005, and outbreaks have since occurred farther west, but mostly in southern areas distant from the capital. No human cases of bird flu have been reported in Russia.

Prime minister says abortion bill coming

Prime Minister Jose Socrates said legislation relaxing the conservative Roman Catholic country's strict law on abortion could be approved by the end of March, the weekly newspaper Expresso reported Saturday. In a referendum last week, nearly 60 percent of Portuguese approved legalizing abortion through the 10th week of pregnancy, but the vote was nullified because of low turnout. The Socialists have an overwhelming majority in parliament, leaving little doubt the legislation would pass.