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UA News
Wednesday October 31, 2001

News Briefs

LILLE, France

Freight train travel halted in Eurotunnel after illegal immigrants

Associated Press

Freight train traffic in the Channel Tunnel was temporarily halted yesterday after about 100 asylum-seekers tried to slip into the tunnel to enter Britain illegally, the French rail authority said.

Passenger trains were unaffected by the stoppage, which paralyzed freight train service between Britain and France for more than 10 hours, officials at the SNCF French rail authority said.

The group of illegal immigrants broke into the Calais Frethun freight terminal, several miles from a Red Cross refugee center where they were believed to have been staying, tunnel operator Eurotunnel said.

Authorities said the freight trains were stopped to ensure that no refugees were hiding on the trains.

Police detained many of the illegal immigrants before allowing them to return to the refugee center, located in the town of Sangatte. The center has become a magnet for refugees, mostly Kurds and Afghans, trying to make it to Britain, which has comparatively lax immigration laws.

Set up two years ago in an unused hangar belonging to Eurotunnel, the center was meant to house 650 people, but its population ballooned to 1,670 last month.

Eurotunnel estimates that it has stopped 18,500 refugees from reaching Britain in the first half of this year, prompting the company to spend more than $4 million to boost security at Coquelles, the freight terminal commonly used by refugees to cross to Britain.

A French court in September rejected a bid by Eurotunnel to have the refugee center closed down.


Child molester in court case that freed hundreds of sex offenders faces new charges

Associated Press

A convicted child molester whose appeal of his sentence led to shorter terms for more than 1,500 sex offenders is accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl.

Fort Lupton police issued a warrant Monday for Vance Martin, 35, on charges he sexually assaulted a girl who attended a Bible-study class he taught. He had not been arrested yesterday.

Martin also is charged under a new state law that makes failure to register as a sex offender a felony and requires offenders to register their address four times a year.

Martin's appeal of his parole term led to a July Colorado Supreme Court ruling that required the release of about 1,500 sex offenders who committed crimes between July 1993 and July 1998. The court threw out a 1993 mandatory parole law because it conflicted with an older law that limited how long sex offenders could be placed on parole.

Martin was originally arrested in July 1993 for molesting his girlfriend's 10-year-old daughter and the girl's young friend in Denver. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child.

After two probation violations, he was re-sentenced in 1997 to four years in prison and five years of mandatory parole based on the 1993 law.

Martin had been teaching a youth Bible-study course at the Living Waters Assembly of God Church in Fort Lupton, Detective John Atkins said. Martin allegedly assaulted the 14-year-old after inviting her to watch videos at his house in September.

Church representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.


Halloween's full moon is first since 1955

Associated Press

For the first time in 46 years, this year's Halloween ghosts and goblins can trick or treat by the light of a full moon. They won't get another chance until 2020, astronomers said.

Tonight's full moon will look like an orange jack-o-lantern rising from the east at dusk, said Jack Horkheimer, executive director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium.

It will appear orange at the horizon because it is seen through denser layers of the earth's atmosphere. Adding to the effect, the moon's tilt at this time of the year makes the "man in the moon" particularly visible.

Some astronomers believe jack-o-lantern carving was inspired by the rising, orange, October moon, said Horkheimer, writer and host of PBS's nationally syndicated Star Gazer series for 25 years.

To make the superstitious even more jittery, a constellation associated with some end-of-the-world beliefs will also be at the top of tonight's sky.

The Seven Sisters constellation, which looks like a small cluster of grapes, has long been a signal for the time of year to honor the dead, such as All Saints Day, Nov. 1.

According to myth, the Seven Sisters constellation is at its highest point in the sky during a great calamity, possibly the biblical flood or the sinking of Atlantis. The Aztecs and Mayans believed it would be overhead at midnight on the night the world comes to an end, Horkheimer said.

The Seven Sisters and the full moon will both be directly overhead at midnight, he said.

"It's just very nifty because it will be a very bright full moon, and when it's up high like that, it will just flood the landscape with a lovely bright light," said Horkheimer.



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