Bush extends ban on suits against Cuba
President Bush notified Congress on Friday of a six-month extension of a ban on lawsuits by U.S. citizens whose property was taken by the Cuban revolution.
Bush said in a letter that the action was “necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba.”
The lawsuit provision was included in a 1996 law aimed at tightening sanctions against Cuba.
Bush, and before him President Clinton, has exercised the waiver at six-month intervals since the law was passed in March 1996 shortly after Cuban jet fighters shot down two unarmed Miami-based planes north of Cuba.
A refusal to waive would give Americans the right to sue any individual, investor or business using property seized after the Castro government took power in 1959.
Floods kill at least 20 in Romania and Bulgaria
Tudor Vladimirescu, Romania
Heavy rains and flash floods have killed 20 people and inundated tens of thousands of homes in Bulgaria and Romania, officials said Friday.
More than 12,000 were forced to evacuate their homes in Romania, where at least 15 people have died in the floods that swept the country in the last two weeks, the Interior Ministry said.
Several eastern villages were flooded when the Siret River overflowed a dam near Tudor Vladimirescu, 160 miles northeast of Bucharest.
Residents had worked frantically to place sand bags to protect a national highway, but the water swept past the improvised barrier as villagers and reporters scrambled to get away. Residents downstream were loading their belongings into horse-pulled carts as they prepared to evacuate.
Rescuers were trying to reach some 1,200 people stranded on rooftops and high ground, Romanian Interior Minister Vasile Blaga said. About 20,000 houses were damaged.
In Bulgaria, which borders Romania to the south, five people have been killed in the last two weeks of floods, and at least 50,000 homes and buildings have been destroyed across the country, outgoing Prime Minister Simeon Saxcoburggotski said Friday.
Kofi Annan resting after shoulder surgery
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had surgery Friday to repair a shoulder he injured while cross-country skiing last winter, a spokesman said.
Annan, 67, is resting at home, U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. He had torn the rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
Annan had initially been told he wouldn’t need surgery for the torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, but doctors determined it wasn’t healing properly, officials said this week.
Officials wouldn’t say when the injury occurred, although Annan took a skiing holiday in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in December. He returned to New York early because of the Dec. 26 tsunami in Southeast Asia.
Annan’s wife, Nane, an avid cross-country skier, has been spotted on the trails of New York City’s Central Park. Annan himself prefers hiking.
Speeding SUV kills two children near border
El Paso, Texas
A sport utility vehicle speeding toward a border crossing plowed into a family Friday, killing two little girls and seriously injuring their mother and two sisters.
The vehicle had blood on a bumper and was dragging a baby stroller underneath when it stopped at a border checkpoint near El Paso, said Roger Maier, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Officials in Mexico soon reported to U.S. agents that a vehicle had crashed into a family on the Mexican side of the border in Ciudad Juarez, killing the girls, ages 4 and 5, Maier said.
Rafael Perez Jr., 19, of El Paso, was being jailed on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, El Paso police said.
It was unclear what other charges the man may face, Maier said.
The victims’ mother and 11-year-old sister were hospitalized in Juarez, Mexican consulate spokeswoman Socorro Cordova said. The other sister, 2, was in critical condition at an El Paso hospital. The father was uninjured.
Mexican officials have reported that the family members, who worked as street vendors, were returning to Juarez when the accident occurred.