May 20, 2007 in Nation/World

In brief: Michael Moore film debuts at festival

The Spokesman-Review
Associated Press photo

Director Michael Moore arrives for the screening of “Sicko” on Saturday at the film festival in Cannes, France.
(Full-size photo)

“Sicko,” Michael Moore’s attack on the U.S. health care system, got a warm welcome at Cannes on Saturday that marked the director’s triumphant return to the film festival and a respite from the controversy his work has started at home.

More than 2,000 people applauded loudly after the film’s first Cannes screening at the packed Grand Theatre Lumiere, the main festival auditorium.

“I know the storm awaits me back in the United States,” said Moore as he absorbed the enthusiastic response of critics and journalists.

The movie doesn’t open until late June, but it has already been criticized by conservative politicians in the United States over scenes in which the filmmaker takes ailing 9/11 rescuers to Cuba for treatment.

The trip to Cuba led the Treasury Department to investigate Moore for possibly breaking the U.S. trade and travel embargo on the communist country. He could face a fine or jail time.

West Sacramento, Calif.

Whales in river port delight onlookers

Thousands of spectators watched Saturday as two wayward whales swam looping half-mile laps around the Port of Sacramento after declining earlier efforts to lure them into the Pacific Ocean.

Crowds shrieked every time they caught a glimpse of the humpback mother and calf, dubbed Delta and Dawn by the state’s lieutenant governor.

The dusty riverbank along the Port of Sacramento took on the air of a carnival Saturday as police officers directed traffic into makeshift parking lots, vendors sold ice cream and lines formed outside Port-o-Potties.

Scientists have been hoping the whales – which appear to have been wounded by a ship’s propeller – would begin swimming westward toward the Pacific Ocean on their own. Spotted five days ago, they have hit a dead-end after traveling 90 miles through San Francisco Bay and up the Sacramento River.

But Carrie Wilson, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said experts are content with the animals remaining in the isolated port area for the weekend since heavy recreational boat traffic in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could complicate rescue efforts.

A marine mammal rescue crew plans to resume efforts Monday to lure the pair by playing recorded sounds of other humpbacks feeding.

Sydney, Australia

Hicks transferred from Guantanamo

Confessed Australian al-Qaida supporter David Hicks was transferred to a maximum security prison near his hometown today after spending more than five years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hicks, the first of hundreds of Guantanamo Bay detainees to face a U.S. military tribunal, made the flight from Cuba in Gulfstream G550 jet chartered by the Australian government with an entourage of Australian police, prison officers and a lawyer.

He was taken to the Yatala Labor Prison in South Australia state, near his hometown of Adelaide. Hicks will serve the final seven months of his sentence in the facility’s highest security wing, alongside serial murderers and rapists.

Hicks, a former Outback cowboy and kangaroo skinner, was captured by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in December 2001, and became one of the first terrorist suspects to be transferred to the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

He pleaded guilty in March to providing material support to al-Qaida.

Under a plea bargain, he was sentenced to nine months in prison – a fraction of the life term he was eligible for on a charge of providing material support for terrorism.

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