Sharon in stable condition
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon was in stable condition on Saturday, a day after being rushed into intensive care with an infection that attacked his heart, hospital officials said. Sharon, 78, has been in a coma since suffering a major stroke in January. He was in stable condition on Saturday, said Anat Dolev, spokeswoman for the Chaim Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. Sharon has undergone several extensive brain operations to stop cerebral hemorrhaging, in addition to more minor procedures. Sharon lapsed into a coma just months after he ended Israel's 38-year occupation of the Gaza Strip bolted his hard-line Likud Party to form the centrist Kadima faction.
■ United States
Laura Bush gets bling again
It's bling again for first lady Laura Bush's birthday. For the second year in a row, US President George W. Bush gave his wife jewelry. This year, it's a triple-strand necklace with amber-colored citrine, a birthstone for this month. The Bushes celebrated on Saturday night with four other couples over Mexican food at their Texas ranch. The president and first lady reunited after two days of separately cam-paigning for candidates in the congressional elections. Bush teased his wife during his rallies. "I'm not going to tell you her age," he said on Friday in Iowa, "but we were both born in the same year and I turned 60 this year." Mrs. Bush celebrated her 59th birthday last year in Argentina, where she and the president were attending a Summit of the Americas.
A surge in electricity demand in Germany due to cold weather triggered massive blackouts across western Europe on Saturday, including to about a tenth of France, electricity operators said. "About 5 million consumers lost" power in the blackout, said a spokesman for the French electricity transmission company RTE. "Similar cuts took place in all western European countries," he added. The German energy company RWE said the blackouts were caused by surging electricity demand Saturday evening due to a plunge in temperatures to the freezing point. The blackout also disrupted the country's high speed trains, causing delays on a dozen lines.
Bad conduct in Kabul
German troops in Afghanistan put a gun to a child's head after picking him off the streets at random, according to a newspaper yesterday quoting a former non-commissioned officer. The Berliner Morgenpost said the incident occurred in Kabul in 2002. The report said a German soldier had ordered the child into a patrol vehicle and out the loaded pistol to his temple, as colleagues took photographs. "The kid was clearly frightened until he realized that he wouldn't be killed," it quoted the former NCO as saying, adding that he had been given a dollar and allowed to go.
FSB kills three rebels
Three suspected Chechen rebels were shot dead in a firefight on Saturday in the southern republic of Ingushetia, a news agency report said quoting Russia's FSB security service. "The liquidated terrorists were wanted by the federal authorities and were being pursued in connection with a criminal case under investi-gation by the prosecutor's office in Grozny," a local FSB official told Russia's RIA Novosti. He said the militants, believed to be under the direct command of Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, opened fire when FSB and interior ministry troops approached to arrest them.