World and Nation

Shorts (left)

China Dissident Says Confession Was Forced

Gao Zhisheng, one of China's most outspoken dissidents until his conviction on sedition charges late last year, said in a recorded statement made available over the weekend that while his confession had resulted in a light sentence, it had been made under mental and physical duress.

Gao's remarks, recorded by a close friend and offered to journalists in Beijing, were his first public statement since he was convicted in December. He was given a suspended sentence.

His confession brought criticism from some other human rights advocates.

Gao lives in Beijing with his wife and children. But he said he remained in nearly total isolation, surrounded by plainclothes security forces and forbidden to leave his home, use his telephone or computer or otherwise communicate with the outside world.

He also said a lengthy confession letter released to the public by the authorities after his conviction, while genuine, had come only after he had been subjected to torture. He said his interrogators repeatedly threatened to punish his wife and children unless he admitted the crimes they said he had committed.

Bush Ties Drop in Illegal Immigration to His Policies

President Bush said Monday that tougher enforcement and a new fence at the Mexican border had sharply reduced the influx of illegal immigrants, and he pressed Congress to pass a sweeping revision of the nation's immigration laws.

"It's amazing progress that's been made," Bush said on a return visit to a section of the border that he inspected 11 months ago.

In the last six months, the White House said, Border Patrol reports showed that apprehensions of illegal immigrants along the Mexican border fell by 30 percent, to 418,184, from 594,142 in the comparable period a year earlier. In the Yuma sector, which spans parts of Arizona and California, apprehensions fell by 68 percent to 25,217, from 79,131 in the comparable period a year earlier.

There are now 13,000 Border Patrol agents, up from 9,000 a year earlier. The number will reach 18,000 by the end of next year, Bush said.

Former Students Are Sentenced For Burning Rural Churches

Three former college students who set fire to churches in rural Alabama in February 2006 were sentenced to prison Monday on federal arson charges.

The defendants apologized for the fires, with one of them saying the incidents followed a night of drinking and deer poaching.

"This is the close of a chapter, but not of the book," Judge R. David Proctor of Federal District Court told the young men. "I hope that you will all find a way that, when that last chapter of that book is written, some good will come of this."

Two of the defendants, Benjamin N. Moseley and Matthew L. Cloyd, were sentenced to eight years and one month for setting nine fires over two nights. The third defendant, Russell L. DeBusk Jr., who was involved in only the first five fires, was sentenced to seven years.

All three were also sentenced to five years of supervised release, 300 hours of community service and $3.1 million in restitution payments to the burned churches.