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Rock band charged in nightclub deaths

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Buenos Aires, Argentina

A judge indicted seven members of an Argentine rock band on involuntary manslaughter charges Friday, saying they will be prosecuted along with the owner of the club where a fire killed 193 people.

Judge Julio Lucini announced the indictments five months after the Dec. 30 blaze at the Cromagnon Republic club in Buenos Aires. The expanding probe comes after weeks of angry street protests by relatives of victims demanding progress in the case.

Local band Los Callejeros was playing at the time of the blaze. The judge previously filed involuntary manslaughter charges against club owner Omar Chaban and several city officials responsible for regulating the clubs.

Band members have repeatedly professed their innocence, saying in newspaper and television interviews that others were responsible for security at the nightclub.

Investigators suspect a flare fired from a packed audience lit ceiling flammable ceiling foam. Fast-spreading flames filled the overcrowded nightclub with smoke and panicked concertgoers became trapped behind locked emergency exits.

Hmong group emerges from hiding, surrenders

Bangkok, Thailand

Nearly 200 members of a Hmong hill tribe surrendered to authorities early Saturday after decades on the run in Laotian jungles, a move that heralds a possible end to a tragic legacy of the Vietnam War.

U.S. sympathizers traveling with the 170 women, children and old men said they were received warmly when they arrived around dawn in Laos’ Xieng Khouang province to turn themselves in and reintegrate into society.

The group emerged at the village of Chong Thuang, said Ed Szendrey, a pro-Hmong activist from the United States who met up with them in hopes of helping ensure their safety.

If all proceeds peacefully, those who surrendered Saturday are expected to be followed by several thousand others, from various Hmong bands in hiding around Laos, Szendrey said, who’s with the U.S.-based Fact Finding Commission.

The Hmong were recruited by the CIA to fight on behalf of a pro-American government during the Vietnam War, only to find themselves all but abandoned after their communist enemies won a long civil war and began single-party rule of the poor, landlocked country.

Logging permits suspended in crackdown

Sao Paulo, Brazil

New logging permits were suspended Friday in a huge Amazon state where the rain forest is being cleared at an ever increasing rate, a day after police launched a crackdown on official corruption.

Gov. Blairo Maggi of Mato Grosso also ousted his environmental chief, who was arrested and accused of involvement in the corruption ring, according to a statement on the state government Web site.

Maggi is the world’s largest soy farmer and is often accused by environmentalists of ignoring illegal logging. He acted after federal police made 90 arrests of government officials and businessmen connected to loggers. Among those arrested was Moacir Pires, the head of Brazil’s federal environmental protection agency in Mato Grosso.

Authorities allege those arrested were responsible for the illegal clearing of 119,000 acres of Amazon rainforest over the past two years, much of it on Indian reservations and in national parks.

‘Hogan’s Heroes’ actor dies in Austria

Vienna, Austria

Leon Askin, the actor who played Gen. Albert Burkhalter in the 1960s television comedy “Hogan’s Heroes,” has died, Austrian officials said Friday.

The actor was 97. Neither city officials nor the Vienna hospital where he died disclosed the cause or date of his death.

Askin was best known for his role as the Nazi general who constantly threatened to send the prisoner of war camp’s inept commander, Col. Wilhelm Klink, to the Russian front because of his stupidity.

Born Leo Aschkenasy in Vienna on Sept. 18, 1907, Askin worked as a cabaret artist in the 1930s before fleeing first to France and then to the United States to escape persecution by the Nazis.

Askin took up residence in Vienna in 1994, returning to his roots in cabaret. He also took roles in Vienna’s Festwochen and the city’s second opera, the Volksoper.

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