Three policemen are killed in Macedonia as tensions increase
Police in armored personnel carriers poured into a tense ethnically mixed area on yesterday after three officers were killed and about 100 people abducted or held hostage in a sudden escalation of violence.
All the captives were released, officials said. But the violence and the police buildup posed a stiff challenge to the shaky peace process in the Balkan country, which was wracked by fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and government forces earlier this year.
Three members of a special police unit were killed and two seriously wounded when ethnic Albanian rebels ambushed a patrol between Semsovo and Trebos, two villages about six miles outside Tetovo in northwestern Macedonia.
Macedonian government officials earlier said about 40 people had been abducted in the area Sunday and another 60 Macedonians taken hostage in Semsovo, blaming ethnic Albanians. They did not say where those abducted were taken or exactly where the hostages were held.
The abductions followed the deployment Sunday of a strong police force to secure an area near Tetovo where Macedonian government officials claim bodies of Macedonians slain by rebels during six months of fighting this year are buried.
Twelve 12 Macedonians are reported missing in the wake of the fighting, which began in February, and a Western diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said that the large size of the police operation to secure the area was an unnecessary provocation by Macedonian authorities.
Aircraft carrier heads to sea with battle group for six months
Relatives and friends, some in tears, hugged crewmen of the USS John C. Stennis on yesterday before the aircraft carrier set sail to support the military action in Afghanistan.
Sailors stood at ease around the edges of the nuclear-powered carrier's deck, which stretches the length of three football fields, as the Stennis moved away from its dock into San Diego Bay.
After saying goodbye to members of the Stennis' crew of about 5,500, hundreds of well-wishers ranging from grandparents to infants waved from behind a fence at North Island Naval Air Station, many of them holding American flags.
''I'm very proud that these men and women of our armed forces are going in deployment to defend our nation. We wish them all success in their mission, and their safe return,'' said Willis Newton, 75, of Oceanside, a retired minister and former military chaplain in Vietnam.
Newton's wife, Madeline, held a sign saying ''Bon Voyage, Boo Boo,'' the nickname of her grandson, Cory Taylor, 20, a Navy airman apprentice from McCall, Idaho.
The Stennis is the centerpiece of a 10-ship battle group that will spend six months in the Persian Gulf. Other ships in the group - with a total of about 8,500 Navy and Marine personnel - were sailing from other locations. They were being joined by a Canadian frigate, the HMCS Vancouver, with a crew of 224.
The battle group had been scheduled to head for the Persian Gulf area in January, but its departure was moved up because of the military action in Afghanistan.
''There's not going to be any Christmas in the house this year,'' said Tammy Barnes, 34, of San Diego, as she bid goodbye to her fiancˇe, Yeoman First Class Otha Hayes
Board of Supervisors to debate Chavez holiday
The Pima County Board of Supervisors will debate again whether to give employees a day off to honor labor leader and human rights activist Cesar E. Chavez.
Board Chairman Raul Grijalva is pushing a proposal for what amounts to an additional paid vacation day to commemorate Chavez's birthday.
Chavez, born in Yuma in 1927, is best known for forming the United Farm Workers Union and leading nationwide boycotts of lettuce and grapes to bring attention to abuses of farm workers, including poor wages and inhumane living conditions.
He died on Oct. 23, 1993, at San Luis, Ariz., where he had been undergoing a spiritual fast.
Supervisors will debate the holiday issues for the second time in two years.
Two of the county's five supervisors support it. Two others oppose it. And another was undecided as of last week.
In March 2000, the supervisors voted to have the county staff write a plan for county employees to substitute Chavez's March 31 birth date for one of their 10 paid holidays.
The plan never materialized. Officials concluded it wasn't legal to alter state-established holidays, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said.
Huckelberry wrote a memo Friday suggesting that if the board wants to create a Cesar Chavez Remembrance Day, it should allow workers to take a day off between March 31 and April 15 without shutting down county offices.
That would give administrators leeway to avoid giving overtime pay to employees who work at 24-hour facilities such as the county jail, the administrator wrote.
Sal Baldenegro, a veteran Latino activist who marched with Chavez in Phoenix, California and Kansas City and is co-chair of the effort to create the holiday, said Chavez was the first person to take on what seemed an impossible task of organizing farm workers.
''He was brutalized. Farm workers were beaten, killed and shot at,'' Baldenegro said. ''Yet he believed firmly in nonviolence. That's one of the most important things we can look to with pride and teach our children, particularly after Sept. 11: that we can take on bad guys, we can win and do it nonviolently.''