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Governor Bush claimed to have new evidence of neglect and challenged the medical diagnoses that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state.

But Circuit Judge George Greer refused to hear his arguments, leaving Ms Schiavo’s parents only the slimmest hopes in their fight to keep their daughter alive.

The decision came hours after the US Supreme Court refused to order her feeding tube reinserted.

The ruling was announced in an abrupt one-page order, and marks the end of a dramatic four day legal battle fought by her parents.

The judges didn’t explain their decision.

It’s the fifth time US courts have declined to get involved in the case, and reduces the chances for quick intervention to reconnect the tube, which was removed last Friday.

The refusal by the Florida court to hear the case may finally exhaust legal avenues available to Ms Schiavo’s supporters.

They insist the 41-year-old, who has been in a persistent vegetative state for the past 15 years, has a chance of at least a partial recovery if given the proper therapy.

Doctors have said Ms Schiavo is likely to die in a week or two without nourishment.

Her husband Michael, who remains her legal guardian, has been urging the court not to intervene, saying her case has been endlessly litigated and state courts have agreed with him that she would want to die.

The Florida court decision is the latest turn in the case that has galvanized pro-life forces in the United State, and become a rallying cry for conservatives.

Opinion polls, however, show Americans, by a two-to-one margin, generally agree with the decision to remove the feeding tube.

The Bulletin magazine has offered a $1.25m reward, to celebrate the publication’s 125th anniversary.

However a report in the Mercury newspaper said another offer has topped it.

“We’ve been gazumped by the Bulletin so we’re going with (our $1.75m reward) now,” Stewart Malcolm of Thylacine Expeditions told the Mercury.

“We’ve had huge interest from overseas, particularly from the US, but it’s gone crazy since the reports of photos from the German tourists.”

Last month, a German tourist submitted two digital images of what he suspected could be the mysterious carnivorous marsupial, the thylacine.

The ‘discovery’ reignited intense interest in the tiger, which was officially declared extinct in 1986.

The last known thylacine died in captivity in a Hobart enclosure fifty years earlier.

But thousands of reported sightings have since been made, with roughly 150 reports investigated each year.

“If the tiger has somehow managed to cling to survival, proving its existence would be one of the greatest scientific stories of the century,” the Bulletin’s editor in chief Garry Linnell wrote in the magazine’s reward offer.

The Bulletin stipulates strict conditions for the tiger hunt, including the capture of a live, uninjured animal carried out in accordance with government regulations.

But, it’s not clear how prospective hunters could legally make a capture, if the tiger has in fact survived somewhere in Tasmania’s wilderness.

“The reward clearly specifies that it has to be legally done, and I can’t see how it can be legally done without a permit, and we won’t be issuing permits for people to attempt to catch thylacine just to satisfy public curiosity,” wildlife biologist Nick Mooney, told the ABC’s 7:30 Report.

Tasmanian Environment Minister Judy Jackson expressed concerns that people were being encouraged to venture into sensitive areas, potentially putting at risk other species such as the Tasmanian devil.

“What I’d suggest to the Bulletin to celebrate their 125th anniversary is to offer that money for scientific research here in Tasmania for other species that are threatened, such as the devil,” Ms Jackson said.

Bounty hunters have until June 30 to snare themselves a tiger.

The singer eventually appeared at the Californian court more than an hour late, looking distressed and wearing pajamas and slippers.

Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville had earlier issued an arrest warrant for Jackson and threatened to revoke his US$3m (A$3.8m) bail, but told lawyers he would hold it for one hour.

Jackson’s defence lawyer Thomas Mesereau told the court the 46-year-old had suffered a severe back problem and was being treated in hospital.

When Jackson did arrive, a few minutes past the deadline, Mr Melville told the jury he didn’t want them to draw any negative inferences from the fact that Jackson did not appear or that the judge had to order him to appear.

During proceedings Jackson’s accuser told the court the singer plied him with him wine and urged the boy to keep quiet about the drinking.

The now 15-year-old former cancer patient also claimed that while staying at the star’s Neverland Ranch, he and his brother frequently drank wine and vodka with Jackson.

He also testified that Jackson served him alcohol, which he called “Jesus Juice”, in a hotel suite in Miami and aboard his private jet.

The boy said during a flight on Jackson’s jet from Miami to California in February 2003, the star handed him a coke can that was apparently filled with wine.

“He said, ‘you know how Jesus drank wine, well we call it Jesus juice,'” the boy said.

Before Jackson’s plane took off on the return trip to California, the boy claimed Jackson gave him an expensive watch.

“He said not to tell anyone about the Jesus juice and said this is like a symbol that we’ll be friends forever,” the boy said on his second day of testimony.

The boy also told jurors that his mother feared for her children’s lives at Neverland.

“She told me that she was afraid they were going to kill us and that she wanted to leave,” the boy said without specifying who his mother was scared of.

Jackson faces 10 charges, including molesting the then 13-year-old boy, plying him with alcohol to seduce him, and allegedly conspiring to kidnap him and his family.

The star has denied all charges and maintains that the boy’s mother is out for financial gain.

The blast occurred at the Texas City facility, 50 kilometres southwest of Houston.

BP spokesman Hugh Depland said the company was unable to confirm the cause or the number of casualties.

Fire fighters and emergency workers were called to the site after a loud explosion was heard at around 12:30pm local time (6:30am AEDT).

The blast was centred in the western part of the sprawling 486-hectare industrial complex, which contains 30 refinery units and houses 1,800 staff.

“It was just a real loud explosion,” Texas City resident, Mike Martin, told the Houston Chronicle.

“It sounded like a sonic boom, and it shook the pictures bad enough to where it knocked them off the wall,” he added.

News of the explosion sparked a jump on US fuel prices, with the cost of petrol reaching US$1.604 (A$2.077) a gallon.

In Dallas, MarketWatch reported crude futures for the month of May rose almost one percent in after hours trading.

“The news spread like wildfire across the trading floor near the end of the NYMX session and I suspect that when after hours trading begins there will be a lot of fireworks in futures,” Tom Kloza, chief analyst at the Oil Price Information Service said.

“Preliminary reports indicate that it could knock out some high octane production as well as diesel.”

BP’s Texas City plant is the third largest refinery in the US and processes 460 million barrels of crude oil a day – three percent of the entire US supply.

But the Port of Houston Authority has allayed fears the blast had forced the closure of its channel to commercial shipping, saying it remains open and fully operational.

On March 30 last year, a blast and fire occurred at the BP Texas City refinery but no injuries were reported.

Under the guidelines of the US-backed ‘roadmap to peace’ plan, Israel is meant to remove unauthorised outposts on Palestinian land.

The report details how officials in the ministries of defence and housing and the settlement division of the World Zionist Organisation spent millions of dollars from state budgets to support the illegal outposts.

Describing the process as a “blatant violation of the law”, former state prosecutor Talia Sasson said “drastic steps” were needed to remedy the situation.

Among the allegations in the 340-page report is that the Housing Ministry supplied 400 trailer homes to settlements without checking ownership of the land, which was “privately-owned Palestinian land”.

Washington and the EU have long demanded Israel halt its settlement activity, which breaks up the contiguity of land Palestinians want for a future state.

The report stopped short of citing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for encouraging the settlers when he was foreign minister.

Israeli settlers began building the settlements more than a decade ago.

It was an initiative backed by Mr Sharon, then foreign minister, who urged settlers to seize hilltops in order to break up the contiguity of Palestinian areas and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The report emerged on the day talks on Palestinians resuming control of West Bank towns stalled, extending a stalemate that threatens to increase frustration and anger that could lead to increased violence after a month-long truce.

Despite the risk of losing momentum in peace efforts, both sides clung to their positions.

The Palestinian Authority is insisting Israel remove army roadblocks around the towns and lift travel restrictions, while Israel says it can’t take security risks until Palestinian security forces do a better job reining in militants.

At the centre of the dispute is the town of Jericho, whose handover had been expected to be a relatively simple affair.

The transfer of security in five West Bank towns — Ramallah, Bethlehem, Qalqilya, Tulkarem and Jericho — was one of the key issues agreed at a summit in Egypt last month.

Two meetings of Israeli and Palestinian security commanders in Jericho broke up without agreement on Wednesday, and no new talks were scheduled.

The breakdown came a day after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz failed to settle the dispute over the roadblocks north and south of Jericho.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia accused Israel of dragging its feet, and the violent Islamic group Hamas warned that Israel “will be held fully responsible for the consequences.”

Earlier on Wednesday Palestinian national security advisor Jibril Rajub declared militants were ready to stop attacks, ahead of talks between the Palestinian factions in Cairo next week.

In what is being described as the heaviest blow to the insurgency in months, a 240-strong Iraqi commando unit engaged in heavy fighting before seizing the camp, 160km north-west of Baghdad.

Iraqi special forces attacked the training camp, at Lake Tharthar, on the border between the troubled mainly Sunni provinces of Anbar and Salaheddin.

The remote site contained ramshackle huts and tents, along with boats used by insurgents to cross the lake.

After encountering heavy fire from an estimated 100 insurgents, the Iraq forces called in US ground and air reinforcements.

“The commandos killed 35 and US air raids killed 50. But no one was captured and many escaped by boat,” General Adnan Thabet, a senior ministry security advisor told the AFP news agency by phone from Samarra.

“During the fight, 30 boats left.”

The camp, frequented by members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s branch of al-Qaeda, was built after the US offensive to retake the rebel enclave of Fallujah in November, General Thabet said.

“This was a serious military camp with a living section and guard posts,” said a commando officer, named Jalil, who took part in the operation, the largest since the January 30 elections.

Iraqi officials said that at least seven Iraqi commandos died, alongside insurgents from a number of countries.

The Iraqi officials said the insurgents included at least 10 foreign recruits.

They had found passports from Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Syria at the camp. One casualty was said to be Egyptian.

Machine guns, rockets, arms and training manuals, including instructions on how to make roadside bombs, were also reportedly discovered.

However the scale of raid has been thrown into question by an AFP correspondent who visited the site.

The correspondent, who went with other journalists to the camp at Lake Tharthar, 200km north of Baghdad, said he saw 30 to 40 fighters there.

The remains of three burnt vehicles were seen on a dusty road leading to the camp in the village of Ain al-Hilwa.

A few mud huts were partly destroyed and a some big craters gouged the ground.

One of the fighters, who called himself Mohammed Amer and claimed to belong to the Secret Islamic Army, said they had never left the base.

He claimed only 11 of his comrades were killed in air strikes on the site.

He said no one was captured and others had fled by boat.

Jeff Weise, a Red Lake High School student, apparently identified himself on internet sites as “angel of death” and “NativeNazi”, the St Paul Pioneer Press reported.

He also claimed to have been questioned by police in 2004 about an alleged plot to “shoot up the school” on the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday, but said he had nothing to do with that, the report said.

In comments posted on April 19, 2004, Weise wrote: “By the way, I’m being blamed for a threat on the school I attend because someone said they were going to shoot up the school on 4/20, Hitler’s birthday, and just because I claim being a National Socialist, guess whom they’ve pinned.”

“I guess I’ve always carried a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideals, and his courage to take on larger nations,” Weise was quoted as saying in one forum used by neo-Nazis.

Other reports described Weise as someone who was often teased at the school.

Weise’s rampage began when he shot dead his grandfather, identified as veteran tribal police officer Daryl “Dash” Lussier, and his girlfriend at their home.

The gunman then drove his grandfather’s police car to the school, where he killed a male security guard, a teacher and five students before taking his own life, the FBI said.

“We believe the shooter was acting alone,” FBI agent Paul McCabe said.

Police, alerted to the massacre when students used cell phones to call for help, said they exchanged gunfire with the gunman, who ducked into a classroom and shot himself.

It was the deadliest US school shooting since the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in which 14 students – including the two killers – and a teacher died.

The Minnesota reservation is controlled by the Ojibwa tribe, commonly known as the Chippewa, which says it has roughly 10,000 members, about half of whom live on the reservation.

One of the dead, in the western Iraqi town of Qaim, had an Iraqi police identity card, and officials said others may have been national guardsmen.

They were found in a village called Al-Rumana on the lush bank of the Euphrates River.

The bodies, dressed in civilian clothing, were found in a field, and had been shot dead at close range in the head or chest.

Reports said they may have been dead for up to a week.

A woman’s body was among those killed.

“We have now 30 bodies and the search is ongoing to find the others,” said General Jassim Dulaimi from the police force in Ramadi, the region’s capital.

Qaim, where insurgents are suspected of regularly crossing into Iraq from Syria, is the site of regular clashes between rebels and US forces.

The discovery comes a day after police reported finding 15 decapitated bodies on a disused army base south of Baghdad, some of them women and children.

In other incidents, the bodies of two people thought to be working with US forces were found stuffed in barrels in southern Baghdad.

Also in Baghdad, Iraq’s outgoing Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafidh escaped an assassination attempt that killed two of his guards and wounded one, an Iraqi official told AFP.

More than 30 Iraqis were killed on Wednesday in different attacks from Kirkuk in the north to Basra in the south, including the massive blast in the capital, according to security sources.

A US soldier was killed and another wounded in a Baghdad bomb blast, according to the US army.

Rebels earlier carried out a synchronised attack aimed at a hotel occupied by US contractors and security guards.

Iraq’s defence ministry said four people died in the attack, while the US embassy said 40 were wounded, including 30 US contractors.

Gunmen, some in police uniforms, killed two security guards before a garbage truck barrelled its way into a parking lot behind the agriculture ministry and the al-Sadeer hotel.

The blast gouged a six-foot deep and 12-foot wide crater in the parking lot and knocked out windows of the hotel, home to security guards and Westerners involved in Iraq’s rebuilding effort.

After a two-hour hearing in a Florida court on Monday the judge refused to immediately issue a ruling on the case of Terri Schiavo, which has sparked an intense ‘right to die’ debate in the United States.

Ms Schiavo, 41, has been in a vegetative state for 15 years and her husband has fought a long legal battle for her right to die, saying she would not have wanted to live in such a condition.

A Florida state court on Friday ordered the feeding tubes that sustain her life be removed at the request of her husband.

But attorneys for Ms Schiavo’s parent filed an emergency motion Monday that would force doctors to re-attach the tube.

In an unprecedented move Congress intervened in the case and
passed an emergency bill during an extraordinary session on Sunday.

President George W. Bush rushed back to the White House to sign the bill into law early on Monday, effectively putting the case under the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

If the parents win and the state court’s decision is reversed, Ms Schiavo will be re-hydrated and given surgery to reconnect the feeding tube.

“We are very hopeful, very hopeful that the federal courts will follow the will of Congress and save my sister’s life,” Ms Schiavo’s sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, said.

Congressional leaders brushed aside concerns of overstepping constitutional bounds on the power of individual states and moved the case to federal court.

“The legal issues, I grant everyone, are complicated, but the moral ones are not,” said Tom DeLay, leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. “Terri Schiavo is not brain dead; she talks and she laughs and she expresses happiness and discomfort.”

Critics say by intervening, Congress has undercut the separation of judicial and legislative powers, infringed on the jurisdiction of state courts and violated family privacy.

Chanting “America out,” crowds swarmed into the Lebanese capital led by the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, countering demands for an end to Syria’s domination.

“Repeat after me, death to Israel,” Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told the crowd amassed on Riad Solh square.

The gathering dwarfed previous opposition protests that urged Syrian troops to leave.

Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Washington, spearheaded the fight against Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon during the 1990s, until its withdrawal in 2000.

Nasrallah called for an end to foreign interference in Lebanon and rejected the US-France sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which demands a full and immediate pullout of foreign troops from Lebanon.

“We are here to reject Resolution 1559, to defend the resistance, its mission and its arms,” Nasrallah said.

“We are united here above all to thank Syria, the Syrian people and the Syrian army which has stayed by our side for many long years and is still with us,” he said.

The crowd waved portraits of Nasrallah, late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, his son and successor Bashar al-Assad and pro-Damascus Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.

Lebanese army vehicles stood by to separate the pro-Syrian demonstrators from nearby Martyrs’ Square, which has been filled daily with opposition supporters chanting “Syria out.”

Meanwhile, the redeployment of Syrian forces in got underway, with troops moving towards the eastern Bekaa Valley.

The start of the redeployment came after a meeting in Damascus of a joint Lebanese-Syrian military committee.

Outgoing Lebanese Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Murad said the redeployment would take between a week and 10 days.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has pledged to pull back 14,000 remaining Syrian troops to the Bekaa by the end of March, but stopped short of announcing a full withdrawal.

But US President George W. Bush repeated his demands for a full withdrawal.

“The time has come for Syria to fully implement Security Council Resolution 1559,” he said. “All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections for those elections to be free and fair.”