- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2010

PAKISTAN

Air strikes kill 61 militants

PARACHINAR | Pakistani military air strikes killed 61 suspected militants in an area near the Afghan border Thursday, including dozens at a seminary where Taliban commanders were thought to be meeting, officials said.

The jet fire rained in two spells during the day in the Mamuzai area of Orakzai, a tribal region where many Pakistani Taliban leaders are thought to have fled to avoid an army ground offensive farther south.

Alongside the religious seminary, a mosque and a school were targeted, local official Samiullah Orakzai said.

Two intelligence officials said the seminary was a main center for Tableeghi Jamaat, a nonviolent Islamic missionary group. The center was targeted because a group of Taliban leaders were thought to be meeting there in the afternoon. Some four dozen people died in the air strikes in and around the seminary, while 13 others were killed in morning strikes at the two other sites.

VENEZUELA

Anti-Chavez TV owner arrested

CARACAS | The owner of Venezuela’s only remaining TV channel that takes a critical line against President Hugo Chavez was arrested Thursday, raising concerns the government is carrying out a widening crackdown aimed at silencing opponents.

Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of Globovision, was arrested on a warrant for remarks that were deemed “offensive” to the president, Attorney General Luisa Ortega said.

Mr. Zuloaga said military intelligence agents detained him at an airport in the northwestern state of Falcon as he was preparing to fly on his private plane with his wife to the Caribbean island of Bonaire, where they planned to vacation.

AFGHANISTAN

Prince Charles visits troops

CAMP BASTION | Britain’s Prince Charles made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday, stopping in the Taliban-infested province where his younger son, Harry, served for 10 weeks until his secret deployment was leaked to the media.

Charles, wearing military fatigues, recalled how much he worried about Harry when he was in Helmand province and sympathized with the families of other British soldiers serving in the country.

Charles also visited the Afghan capital, Kabul, during his one-day visit. Britain has lost 276 troops since the war began in 2001, second only to the United States. British soldiers have mainly been tasked with battling the Taliban in Helmand.

IRELAND

Pubs to open on Good Friday

DUBLIN | As long as Ireland has had pubs, Good Friday has been off-limits as a “dry” holy day - until now.

A Limerick judge ruled Thursday that the city’s 110 pubs can open April 2 because the city is hosting a major Irish rugby match attracting tens of thousands of visitors. This will be the first time in the history of the Republic of Ireland that pubs anywhere in the country will open on Good Friday.

Such a judgment would have been unthinkable in the Ireland of old, where the Catholic Church enjoyed unquestioned authority from the public and deference from the government. Commentators were quick to suggest that Thursday’s judgment represented a watershed in the shifting relations between church and state in this rapidly secularizing land.

The pubs argued that keeping pubs shut for the match between hometown favorites Munster versus Dublin-based rivals Leinster would represent an economic sin in Limerick, a city suffering from high unemployment.

FRANCE

Twitter hacker: Didn’t mean harm

PARIS | He’s unemployed and isn’t much of a computer expert. The Frenchman accused of infiltrating Twitter and peeping at the accounts of President Obama and singers Britney Spears and Lily Allen says he wanted to reveal just how vulnerable online-data systems are to break-ins - and he says he didn’t mean any harm.

“I’m a nice hacker,” suspect Francois Cousteix told France 3 television Thursday, a day after he was released from police questioning, adding that his goal was to warn Internet users about data security.

“Hacker Croll,” as he was known online, is accused of breaking into Twitter administrators’ accounts and copying confidential data - as well as peeping at Mr. Obama’s and the singers’ accounts, though he didn’t have access to sensitive information about them, a French prosecutor said.

SPAIN

Judge closer to being charged

MADRID | Spain’s Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday for the judge known for indicting Osama bin Laden and Augusto Pinochet to be charged with abuse of power in a probe of Spanish Civil War atrocities.

The decision by a five-judge panel to continue the case is a stinging setback for Judge Baltasar Garzon, a deeply polarizing figure who is accused of knowingly overstepping the bounds of his job in 2008 by investigating the atrocities.

Judge Garzon, 54, denied any wrongdoing, telling journalists in Seville that he would “continue to defend my absolute innocence.”

CHINA

Poet barred from traveling to U.S.

BEIJING | A pixie-ish literature professor is the latest person to run afoul of China’s government, denied permission to travel to a prominent academic conference in the United States this week.

Cui Weiping had her Chinese passport, U.S. visa and airplane ticket to Philadelphia in hand when, she said, officials at the Beijing Film Academy, where she works, called her in Sunday and told her to cancel the trip. Though they gave reasons for the denial - she has classes to teach, her conference panel was not related to her academic discipline - those were excuses, she said.

The unstated reason, she said: last year’s commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement and her recent outraged Twitter posts at the jailing of a peaceful political activist.

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