HAITI: US aid worker released from prison after judge declines charges
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ An American aid worker was released Wednesday from Haiti's notoriously overcrowded National Penitentiary after authorities apparently cleared him of allegations that he kidnapped an infant from a hospital where he worked as a volunteer.
Paul Waggoner was receiving medical treatment at an undisclosed location following his release, Materials Management Relief Corps, the aid group he co-founded after the Jan. 12 earthquake, said in a statement on the group's Web site.
The group said a judge declined to bring kidnapping charges against him. Haitian judicial authorities could not be reached for comment.
Waggoner's lawyer, Gary Lisade, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he had submitted to a judge in the case a death certificate from the hospital where the infant he was accused of kidnapping had died. He also gave the court an affidavit from the American doctor who treated the 15-month-old boy.
"We are so glad it's finally over," Paul Sebring, the other co-founder of the group, said in a statement, describing conditions at the prison as "horrific."
Waggoner, who was living in Nantucket, Massachusetts before moving to Haiti following the earthquake, had been in custody for 18 days while authorities investigated the allegations of Frantz Philistin, a Haitian man whose infant son was treated at a hospital in Petionville in February.
Sebring and others said Waggoner was helping to move supplies at the hospital and was not involved with the treatment of the baby. The doctor said in his affidavit that Philistin declined to take the body, saying he couldn't afford to bury it, Sebring said. Later, he began making accusations against Waggoner, at one point accusing him of putting the infant into a Voodoo trance to kidnap him and sell his organs.
CUBA: Cash-strapped Cuban government slashes state-subsidised soap from ration books
HAVANA (AP) _ The cost of cleanliness will rise in Cuba after its cash-strapped, communist government announced Wednesday that soap, toothpaste and detergent will be slashed from monthly ration books.
Cuba's official Gazette said that effective Jan. 1, "personal cleanliness products" will join a growing list of products cut from the ration books that islanders have come to rely on for a small but steady supply of basic goods.
Cubans currently pay about 25 centavos, or about a penny, for a rationed bar of soap. They'll soon have to fork out four to six pesos, according to the gazette.
The list of products available with the ration books has shrunk in recent months as the government trimmed items deemed nonessential. Cigarettes, salt, peas and potatoes have been cut. Sugar, beans, meat, rice, eggs, bread and other products remain.
The ration program began in 1962 as a temporary way to guarantee food staples for all Cubans in the face of the United States' then-new embargo. Designed to tide people over, it has long provided a measure of food security in a country where average wages hover around $20 a month.
Authorities say the cuts are necessary to free the state _ which pays for or heavily subsidizes education, health care, housing and transportation _ from a crushing economic burden.
Other, more drastic cost-cutting measures have also been announced, including the layoffs of about half a million state workers.
ST. MAARTEN: Cruise ship crewman from India shot in St. Maarten
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (AP) _ Police in St. Maarten say a cruise ship crew member has been shot in an attempted robbery.
Police spokesman Ricardo Henson says the victim was from India and works on board the Aurora. His wounds are not life threatening. The attack occurred Wednesday near two brothels in the former Dutch Caribbean colony. Violent crime is relatively rare in St. Maarten especially against foreigners.
Gahadhar Pradhan told reporters at the hospital that he was walking from one brothel to another to look for a friend when an armed man approached him and demanded his money. He said he told the robber to take his money when the man suddenly shot him and fled with nothing. Henson said a search was on for the suspect.
FRENCH GUIANA: Arianespace launches Korean, Spanish communications satelittes from French Guiana
KOUROU, French Guiana (AP) _ Arianespace successfully launched two communications satellites into orbit Wednesday from its spaceport on the northern coast of South America.
The Ariane 5 rocket was carrying satellites for the Korean Telecom Corp. and Spain's Hispasat in the company's sixth and final launch of the year from its compound in French Guiana. The launch had been scheduled for Tuesday but had been postponed because of weather conditions.
Arianespace is the the commercial arm of the 13-country European Space Agency.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Cruise ship crew members tried to smuggle drugs into Baltimore from Dominican Republic
BALTIMORE (AP) _ Federal authorities have charged three cruise ship workers and two other people with trying to smuggle heroin and cocaine into Baltimore from the Dominican Republic.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent's account filed this week in federal court states the Royal Caribbean cruise ship employees planned to deliver drugs they picked up in the Dominican Republic to a Wal-Mart near the cruise terminal, but a ship security officer tipped off authorities.
Court documents state agents found 700 grams of heroin and 300 grams of cocaine on one crew member and after a second was seen getting in and out of an SUV at the Wal-Mart, heroin and cocaine were found in the purse of one of the two people in that SUV.
All five are charged with conspiring to import drugs into the country.