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Investigation opened into 1940 massacre

WARSAW -- Polish war crimes prosecutors have opened an investigation into the 1940 massacre in the Katyn forest of more than 21,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret police, authorities said yesterday. Leon Kieres, the head of Poland's National Remembrance Institute, told a news conference that the investigation by 16 of his specialized prosecutors will attempt to add names to the fragmentary records of the Soviet officials and secret police agents who issued, passed on, or carried out the orders to kill the Polish prisoners. Until the fall of communism in 1989, any mention of the massacre was forbidden in Poland. The following year, the Soviet government accepted responsibility for the World War II murders. Soviet agents killed 21,768 Polish military officers, intellectuals, and priests in the forests of Katyn and other places. (AP)

Colombia

Congress approves Uribe reelection bill

BOGOTA -- Colombia's Congress gave final approval to a bill to allow President Alvaro Uribe to run for reelection, a move aimed at giving the hard-line leader more time to fight a leftist insurgency and drug trafficking. The only possible roadblock before the bill would become law is the Constitutional Court, which recently struck down a bill pushed by Uribe to toughen antiterrorism laws after it was already approved in Congress. The court will now review the measure. Under current law, the US ally cannot run in the 2006 election for a second consecutive term. He has been hugely popular in Colombia, with an approval rating that has hovered around 75 percent since he took office in 2002. The bill easily surpassed the 84 votes needed in a marathon session in the lower House of Representatives that ended late Tuesday, said Interior Minister Sabas Pretelt. (AP)

Philippines

More than 400 dead as storms trigger floods

MANILA -- The death toll from a powerful rainstorm that caused landslides and flash floods in the eastern Philippines rose to 412, with 177 people still missing, officials said yesterday. Meanwhile, winds and rain from another approaching typhoon hampered rescue efforts and prompted authorities to raise an alert over the country's already battered eastern provinces. Angelo Reyes, the local government secretary, told disaster officials in Manila that police had reported 412 dead, 63 injured and 177 missing. (AP)

Brazil

Amazon deforestation on rise, activists say

BRASILIA -- An area of Amazon jungle larger than New Jersey has been destroyed this year and work on a new highway is mainly to blame, environmental group Friends of the Earth and the government said yesterday. The preliminary figures, based on satellite images, alarmed environmentalists because they suggest that Amazon destruction has surpassed its second-highest level, reached in 2002-2003. The data is based on a satellite system that has been monitoring Amazon deforestation on a test basis. The government's yearly figures, released in March, are based on data from a different satellite system. The images indicated that between 8,920 square miles and 9,420 square miles were cut down this year. (Reuters)

Cuba

Hopes rise of possible release of dissidents

HAVANA -- As many as 18 jailed dissidents have been transferred from provincial penitentiaries to the main prison hospital in Havana, raising hopes that they will soon be freed, relatives of the dissidents said yesterday. Cuban President Fidel Castro's communist government released five dissidents in the past week, all after checkups at the same prison hospital. Those released this week and all those transferred to the prison hospital on Tuesday were among 75 independent journalists, politicians, rights activists, and others rounded by in a March 2003 crackdown. (AP)

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