CARIBBEAN: Attorney General-nominee tells US senators that waterboarding 'is torture'
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder Jr. forcefully broke from the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies Thursday, declaring that waterboarding is torture and pledging to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. courts.
It was the latest signal that President-elect Barack Obama will chart a new course in combatting terrorism. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended waterboarding, a harsh interrogation tactic that simulates drowning, saying it provided valuable intelligence.
The CIA has used the tactic on at least three terrorism suspects, included alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In past Senate hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, frustrated senators by repeatedly sidestepping questions about waterboarding.
It was the first topic discussed at Holder's confirmation hearing to become the top U.S. law enforcement officer, and he made an unambiguous statement about its nature: "Waterboarding is torture."
The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency strenuously defended the effectiveness of the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques, only moments after Holder's comments.
Though the United States insists it has not engaged in waterboarding during interrogations in the last five years, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that the coercive techniques and other harsh tactics were useful in the campaign against terror.
CARIBBEAN: Pentagon official's torture comment sparks requests to review Gitmo detainee cases
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ The attorney for a Guantanamo detainee accused of masterminding the USS Cole bombing has requested that charges be dropped following comments from a Pentagon official regarding torture.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes said Thursday that it is likely the judge who oversees the military trials was not informed about his client's treatment.
"It's either deliberate ignorance, or they just don't think what happened in CIA custody is relevant at all to these cases," said Reyes, whose client is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Al-Nashiri could face the death penalty if found guilty on charges related to the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer that killed 17 U.S. sailors in the Yemeni port of Aden. The Pentagon formally approved war crimes charges against him last month.
Reyes' request came after Pentagon official Susan Crawford said she refused to refer charges against another detainee because she believes he was tortured.
She told The Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday that the United States tortured Saudi Mohammed al-Qahtani in 2002. She is the first senior Bush administration official to make such a statement.
Al-Nashiri is one of three terrorist suspects the CIA has said it subjected to waterboarding in secret overseas prisons.
PUERTO RICO: Anger-management class ordered for man who punched ex-governor over Bush remark
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ A judge ordered anger-management classes Thursday for a businessman who punched a former governor of Puerto Rico, apparently because he criticized President George W. Bush.
Joseph Raymond Molina, who had faced up to eight years in prison, was also sentenced to five and a half years' probation and directed to take counseling for alcohol abuse.
Molina told the judge that he punched former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo last February in self-defense.
The two men, who are in their 70s, scuffled in a San Juan restaurant where they had been watching U.S. election primaries. At the trial, Romero said the fight broke out after he said in reference to Bush: "Cowards who gain power become cruel and abusive people."
Romero was wearing glasses and required surgery for a damaged retina and broken bones, according to his daughter.
A silent video recording from the restaurant shows Molina pointing a finger at Romero, who knocks his hand away before the two men stand and confront one another.
Molina was found guilty of assault in October. He sought a pardon from former Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila, who is awaiting trial for alleged campaign-finance irregularities that Romero says he was first to bring to the FBI's attention.
CARIBBEAN: French foreign minister favors taking in former Guantanamo inmates
PARIS (AP) _ France's foreign minister favors taking in former inmates from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay if they risk persecution in their home countries, an official said Thursday.
Bernard Kouchner wants France "to favorably examine" the question of opening French doors to ex-Guantanamo inmates, Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier told an online briefing.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to close the prison camp, and a few European countries have said they are ready to take in inmates who risk trouble with authoritarian governments if they are returned home.
France should consider detainees "on a case by case basis, after evaluating carefully the judicial implications and security risk," and only if they specifically ask to come to France, Chevallier said.
Earlier, French diplomats had said only that the country was "considering" the possibility of hosting Guantanamo detainees.
ST. LUCIA: Government thanks British singer Amy Winehouse for "positive impact" on island
CASTRIES, St. Lucia (AP) _ St. Lucia's tourism minister is praising British singer Amy Winehouse for bringing publicity to the Caribbean island.
Winehouse arrived in December and media have documented her high-profile antics ever since. She has been accused of throwing a drink on a tourist to throwing up at the breakfast buffet.
Nonetheless, Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet says she has made a positive impact. He says every picture shows her smiling or interacting with the locals.
Chastanet told a local TV station Thursday that the government sent her a gift basket of local products.
Chastanet said that in a competitive world, "any edge that you can get, you hang on to it."
Winehouse has had problems with drugs, police and a dramatic marriage.
GUYANA: Government to replace sugar industry management; cites drop in production
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) _ Guyana is expelling managers of its sugar industry in hopes of boosting production.
Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud says the South American country is ending a 19-year contract with Britain-based Booker Tate. The government blames strikes and poor crop management, as well as heavy rainfall, for a decline in production.
Booker Tate did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company helped manage Guyana's state-owned company Guysuco, which runs all eight of the country's sugar estates.
Persaud said Thursday that Guyana produced 226,000 tons (205,000 metric tons) of sugar last year despite a projected 315,000 tons (290,000 metric tons).
Guyana is the Caribbean's largest sugar-producing nation.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Crews demolish nautical club facilities, cite environmental violations
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ Authorities in the Dominican Republic have demolished part of a newly completed nautical club in a popular tourist area they say violated environmental laws.
Environment Ministry official Andy Omar Johnson says a Dominican development company ignored previous warnings the agency sent regarding the illegal construction. Dominican law prohibits certain types of construction less than 200 feet (60 meters) from the beach.
Company officials could not be reached for comment.
Johnson said Wednesday that crews demolished the pool and game area.
The three-story, 800-sq.-meter (8,600-sq.-foot) club was built east of the capital in the Altagracia province.
CARIBBEAN: Holder says Clinton's pardons for Puerto Rican nationalists were reasonable
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Eric Holder Jr. says President Bill Clinton acted reasonably when he commuted the sentences of 16 Puerto Rican nationalists.
The prisoners belonged to a group, the FALN, that carried out murders, robberies and bombings.
Holder said Thursday that those released from prison did not carry out the violent acts, a statement that has been disputed by former FBI officials.
The nominee for attorney general said prominent people supported the sentence commutation, including Coretta Scott King, former President Jimmy Carter and religious leaders.
CARIBBEAN: Sprinter requests court to win back Olympic 200 place, after already getting medal
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ Sprinter Churandy Martina made his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday to be reinstated as the Olympic 200 meters silver medalist.
Martina and his Netherland Antilles team appealed his disqualification from second place behind Usain Bolt in Beijing for running out of his lane.
The Caribbean island team argued that a United States protest against Martina was filed too late under rules set by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Martina appeared at the day-long hearing to give evidence before arbitrator Luigi Fumagalli, along with officials from the IAAF and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
CAS said Thursday that a ruling is not expected before the end of January.
However, the 24-year-old Martina has already received the silver medal in an unofficial twist _ and unexpected show of generosity from Shawn Crawford, the 200 winner at the 2004 Athens Games.
In a drama that was only just beginning at the Bird's Nest stadium last Aug. 20, defending champion Crawford crossed the line in fourth place behind Bolt's world record run of 19.30 seconds.
Martina crossed second in 19.82, faster than the Netherland Antilles national record of 20.11 he set winning his semifinal.
Wallace Spearmon of the U.S. finished third but ran out of his lane and was disqualified.
American team officials studied video of the race and then filed a protest against Martina for the same error.
CARIBBEAN: Attorney General-nominee tells US senators that waterboarding 'is torture'