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Iran executions concern UN

GENEVA -- The UN's human rights office says it is "deeply concerned" about the high number of executions in Iran this year.

The Geneva-based office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says at least 80 people have been executed in the past seven weeks, seven of them publicly.

It cites "reliable sources" the number of executions could be as high as 95.

Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said Friday most of the executions were for drug-related offences that aren't among the "most serious crimes" for which international law allows the death penalty.

Shamdasani said the global body regretted the reformist government, which came into office last August, didn't change Iran's approach to the death penalty.

Last year between 500 and 625 people were executed in Iran.


Holocaust reparation talks

WASHINGTON -- Seventy-two years after Nazis began deporting French Jews to concentration camps, the French government is negotiating to pay reparations for the first time to several hundred Holocaust survivors now living in the U.S. who survived unspeakable conditions while being transported in government-owned rail cars and in the death camps at the end of the line.

Stuart Eizenstat, a Washington lawyer who advises the State Department on Holocaust issues, said in an interview Friday the French government entered into formal talks Feb. 6 and appeared to be intent on wrapping up negotiations by the end of the year.

The French, who previously resisted paying reparations to U.S.-based survivors of the rail deportation, appear to have been influenced by legislation pending in Congress to make it easier for victims to sue in U.S. courts, and also by efforts in California, Maryland and Florida to block Keolis, a subsidiary of the French national railroad SNCF, from winning contracts to build or operate high-speed rail systems.

The company operates commuter rail, bus and taxi systems around the country, according to company spokeswoman Leslie Aun. She refused to comment on the reparations negotiations.

The SNCF -- the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français -- allegedly carried 76,000 Jews and other prisoners to Nazi concentration camps in stifling cattle cars. Survivors said the railroad workers often refused to provide any water for the days-long trips because they didn't want to slow down the trains. Of the 76,000, only 2,000 survived the war.


Turbulence turfs training

SAN DIEGO -- A training exercise designed to showcase the government's ability to recover a space capsule at sea was scrubbed after NASA ran into trouble off the Southern California coast, the space agency said Friday.

Crews had difficulty tying down a mock-up of the Orion capsule aboard an amphibious warship off the shores of San Diego.

NASA said cables attached to the capsule weren't strong enough to handle turbulence and snapped off twice while it was in the well deck of the USS San Diego before it could be moved out to sea on Thursday.

With the Orion mock-up still on the Navy ship, teams could not practice fetching the spacecraft from the ocean.


-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2014 A28

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