Scientists identify bit of moss as insole...

Scientists identify bit of moss as insole of Neolithic footwear

ZUG, Switzerland - A piece of flattened moss discovered under a main road on the shores of a Swiss lake had archaeologists puzzled - until they discovered it contained the imprint of a foot. Now they have declared the item to be the earliest insole ever discovered, about 5,200 years old.


The archaeologists, carrying out their dig during the renovation of a main road through Zug, already knew that it was the site of a lakeside Neolithic settlement. The age has been confirmed through dating other items found there.

Archaeologists are completing work to preserve the insole, and then it will go on display at Zug's museum of prehistory.


Loyalist group suspected in N. Ireland bombing

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Britain and Ireland have condemned the bombing of a moderate political party's offices.

Thursday's blast at the offices of the Social Democratic and Labor Party was the latest in a spate of violent incidents blamed on Protestant militants. Police confirmed that a homemade pipe bomb was used, a favorite device of pro-British "loyalist" militias during 30 years of conflict.

Alban Maginness, a senior member of the SDLP, which is the province's biggest pro-Irish Catholic party, blamed the guerrilla Protestant Ulster Defense Association and said people in a separate office narrowly escaped injury.

Pinochet finishes tests for trial competency

SANTIAGO, Chile - Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has concluded, a day early, tests to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial for his alleged role in human rights abuses that occurred during his 1973-1990 rule.

Judge Juan Guzman plans to interrogate Pinochet on Monday. However, Pinochet's defense filed a petition asking him to call off, or at least delay for 10 days, the interrogation in order to see the results of the mental exams first.

Philippine ex-minister says smugglers visited palace


MANILA, Philippines - Philippine President Joseph Estrada's former finance minister testified yesterday in the president's impeachment trial that he quit the Cabinet partly because smugglers were moving freely in social circles and he even saw some visit the presidential palace.

Edgardo Espiritu was not asked whether Estrada met those people and knew what they were doing in the palace.

Departing U.N. official begs Kosovars for peace

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia - In an emotional farewell speech yesterday, the top U.N. administrator in Kosovo begged the leaders of the province's various ethnic groups to bring an end to violence.

"My final message to you is simple: stop the killings, my dear friends, stop the violence," Bernard Kouchner told the officials seated in the front rows of a chilly sports hall. "There were already too many victims on this land. There was too much suffering in the last months and years."

Kouchner has served as the top U.N. official in Kosovo since the United Nations and NATO took control of the province in June 1999. A former French health minister and a founder of the aid group Doctors Without Borders, he will be replaced Monday by Hans Haekkerup, a former Danish defense minister.


Plans for raising Kursk outlined by consortium

BRUSSELS, Belgium - An international consortium said yesterday that it plans to start raising the sunken Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in April, along with the two nuclear reactors, 22 armed missiles and 106 bodies on board.

The sub, which sank Aug. 12 in the Barents Sea off the Russian coast, would be raised using cranes and towed to the port of Murmansk under a giant barge, according to the Brussels-based Kursk Foundation. The project is expected to cost about $70 million and to be completed in August.

Work by a Russian commission investigating the cause of the disaster has still not determined what happened. Russian and Norwegian divers retrieved 12 bodies from the Kursk in November, before having to stop because of rough weather.