- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2007

BRITAIN

Queen bestows knighthood on Rushdie

LONDON — Author Salman Rushdie, who was forced into hiding for a decade after the leader of Iran’s revolution ordered his assassination, has been made a knight, Buckingham Palace announced yesterday.

The author of “The Satanic Verses” was on the list of honors marking Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, along with CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, KGB double agent Oleg Gordievsky, and perhaps the government’s toughest human rights critic, Shami Chakrabarti.

SWITZERLAND

Passenger trains transit new tunnel

ZURICH — The first passenger trains ran through a new tunnel under the Alps yesterday as Switzerland took a major step toward completing an engineering project to improve transportation links through the mountains.

Special trains ran through the 22-mile tunnel, which links the capital Berne with the south of the country and northern Italy, all day to mark the opening.

The new Loetschberg tunnel runs at a greater depth than a previous tunnel, and trains can travel faster. Scheduled trains will start to run through the new tunnel in December.

A new link under the Gotthard pass between Zurich and Milan, due to be completed in 2016, will be the world’s longest rail tunnel at 35.4 miles.

ITALY

Gay parade attracts thousands in Rome

ROME — Tens of thousands yesterday staged a “Gay Pride” parade, urging the Italian government to fast-track plans to grant homosexual couples legal status and override Vatican objections.

The raucous and colorful crowd, which included transvestites and lawmakers, marched under a baking sun from Rome’s St. Paul’s Gate to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the official ecclesiastical seat of the pope as bishop of Rome, where protesters staged a giant rally against the parade last month.

Several government ministers turned up at the parade to demonstrate their support.

BULGARIA

Activists free last 3 dancing bears

SOFIA — After a lifetime of brutal treatment, including walking on burning embers, Bulgaria’s last three dancing bears will get to rest their paws at a mountain sanctuary, in an apparent end to the centuries-old performance tradition in the Balkans.

Activists on Friday bought the freedom of Mima, 8, Misho, 19, and Svetla, 17. The three bears will join another 20 brown bears on Mount Rila at a 30-acre sanctuary for former dancing bears 110 miles south of Sofia.

Bulgaria is thought to have been the last country in the Balkans where dancing bears performed, even though the practice was outlawed in 1993, when there were 20 to 30 such bears in the country.

Throughout the Balkans, families — mostly among the Gypsy or Roma community — have long earned a living through performing bears.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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