- - Sunday, December 18, 2011

VATICAN CITY

Pope visits prisoners, calls for better treatment

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI made an emotional visit Sunday to Rome’s main prison, meeting with detainees, denouncing prison overcrowding and calling for greater dignity for inmates everywhere.

Benedict spent more than an hour at Rome’s Rebibbia prison, fielding questions from a half-dozen inmates who spoke of their despair at being kept in overcrowded cells and away from their families. Some said they were sick with AIDS, and others claimed to have repented for their crimes.

The 84-year-old pope told the 300 men and women gathered in the prison chapel that he loved them and prayed for them. He reminded them that Christ was imprisoned before being sentenced to “the most savage punishment” of all, crucifixion.

UNITED KINGDOM

Conservative aide fired for going to Nazi-themed party

LONDON — An aide to the government’s transportation minister has been fired for attending a friend’s Nazi-themed stag party, the ruling Conservative Party said Sunday.

Aidan Burley had “behaved in a manner which is offensive and foolish” and had been removed as parliamentary private secretary to the transport minister, a party spokesman said.

Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an investigation into Mr. Burley’s behavior.

Last week a newspaper ran a picture showing Mr. Burley with a man dressed in an SS uniform at the party.

Mr. Burley said he felt “deep regret” about the event, at which guests toasted the Third Reich.

In a letter to the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, he offered an “unreserved, wholehearted and fulsome apology.”

RUSSIA

Thousands protest against alleged election fraud

MOSCOW — Thousands took to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg for a second weekend of protests over Russia’s allegedly fraud-tainted parliamentary vote.

About 4,000 supporters of the Communist Party rallied just outside the walls of the Kremlin on a snowy Sunday afternoon. They demanded a recount of the vote and the government’s resignation.

In St. Petersburg, a rally in a central square drew about 3,000 people from various political parties and movement. Protesters chanted: “Russia without Putin!”

Frustration has grown with the ruling United Russia party and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for more than a decade.

The protests were small compared to nationwide rallies held in at least 60 Russian cities last weekend, including an unprecedented gathering of tens of thousands in Moscow.

SPAIN

Pilots strike Iberia over cut-rate airline

MADRID — Spanish airline Iberia canceled a third of its flights Sunday because of a strike by pilots, fearing job losses when company planes are diverted for use by Iberia’s planned new budget carrier.

Iberia said it scrapped 91 flights, mostly domestic routes, but that no major disruptions were reported at its bustling Madrid hub or other airports because it managed to find alternative seats on other Iberia flights or with other carriers for about 80 percent of the travelers.

Another one-day strike is planned for Dec. 29.

Iberia plans to divert jetliners from money-losing domestic and medium-haul European routes for Iberia Express, which it hopes to launch early next year using lower-earning, newly hired pilots and flight attendants. The company says its plans are for this carrier to have 40 planes in 2015.

UNITED KINGDOM

Prince Harry helps friend after London mugging

LONDON — Prince Harry showed up at a London police station to help a friend who had been mugged, royal officials said Sunday.

Harry’s Clarence House office said the 27-year-old prince went to support a friend who was reporting a robbery.

His friend, Thomas van Straubenzee, was robbed in a south London street while on the phone with Harry, who raced across the city to help. When he could not find van Straubenzee, Harry went to the local police station, where he gave a witness statement.

Police said a cellphone was recovered after the Nov. 30 robbery. A suspect has been arrested and bailed.

Harry, an army helicopter pilot, recently returned from a two-month training exercise in the United States.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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