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Violence in France



Published: Mon, October 23, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Violence in France

EPINAY-SUR-SEINE, France -- On a routine call, three unwitting police officers fell into a trap. A car darted out to block their path, and dozens of hooded youths surged out of the darkness to attack them with stones, bats and tear gas before fleeing. One officer was hospitalized.

The recent ambush was emblematic of what some officers say has become a near-perpetual and increasingly violent conflict between police and gangs in tough, largely immigrant French neighborhoods that were the scene of a three-week paroxysm of rioting last year.

National police reported 2,458 cases of violence against officers in the first six months of the year, on pace to top the 4,246 cases recorded for all of 2005 and the 3,842 in 2004. Firefighters and rescue workers have also been targeted -- and some now receive police escorts in such areas.

On Sunday, a band of about 30 youths, some wearing masks, forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight Sunday, set it on fire, then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue, police said. No one was injured.

Canal expansion approved

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Voters overwhelmingly approved the largest modernization plan in the 92-year history of the Panama Canal on Sunday, backing a multibillion dollar expansion that will allow the world's largest ships to squeeze through the shortcut between the seas.

About 79 percent of Panamanians voted in favor the expansion with 42 percent of 4,416 polling stations reporting, according to preliminary results released by the country's electoral tribunal. Nearly 21 percent opposed the plan. There were not enough ballots remaining to be counted reverse the trend.

Obama mulls '08 race

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged Sunday he was considering a run for president in 2008, backing off previous statements that he would not do so.

The Illinois Democrat said he could no longer stand by the statements he made after his 2004 election and earlier this year that he would serve a full six-year term in Congress. He said he would not make a decision until after the Nov. 7 elections.

New tombs discovered

SAQQARA, Egypt -- The arrest of tomb robbers led archaeologists to the graves of three royal dentists, protected by a curse and hidden in the desert sands for thousands of years in the shadow of Egypt's most ancient pyramid, officials announced Sunday.

The thieves launched their own dig one summer night two months ago but were apprehended, Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters.

That led archaeologists to the three tombs, one of which included an inscription warning that anyone who violated the sanctity of the grave would be eaten by a crocodile and a snake, Hawass said.

The tombs date back more than 4,000 years to the 5th Dynasty and were meant to honor a chief dentist and two others who treated the pharaohs and their families, Hawass said.

Trying to prevent deaths

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Searchers combing the Mississippi River this month pulled out the body of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse basketball player Luke Homan -- the eighth college-age man in nine years to disappear from a city tavern and turn up dead in a river.

La Crosse officials have debated for years how to keep drunken students safe, but some say there may be no answer for a town with three colleges, three rivers and 3 pitchers of beer.

"I'm not sure anything we do can prevent a future tragedy," Mayor Mark Johnsrud said.

Some officials want to rein in the binge drinking culture. Others have proposed fencing off the scenic waterfront.

But solutions have so far eluded this community where drownings and drinking have claimed lives for years.

The city's first recorded alcohol-related drowning was in 1867, according to the mayor.

Storm strengthens

MEXICO CITY -- Tropical Storm Paul strengthened off Mexico's west coast Sunday and forecasters predicted it could become a hurricane overnight and hit land within three days.

Late Sunday afternoon, Paul was hovering over the Pacific Ocean about 485 miles south of the Baja California peninsula, said Lixion Avila, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

It was moving northwest away from land at 8 mph.

However, Paul was forecast to gradually shift to the northeast and clip the southern tip of Baja California, hitting mainland Mexico near the state of Sinaloa late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Associated Press




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