Military chief warns of nuclear war risks
MOSCOW | Russia is facing a heightened risk of being drawn into conflicts at its borders that have the potential of turning nuclear, the nation's top military officer said Thursday.
Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, cautioned about NATO's expansion eastward and warned that the risks for Russia to be pulled into local conflicts have "risen sharply."
Gen. Makarov added, according to Russian news agencies, that "under certain conditions local and regional conflicts may develop into a full-scale war involving nuclear weapons."
A steady decline in Russia's conventional forces has prompted the Kremlin to rely increasingly on its nuclear deterrent.
The nation's military doctrine says it can use nuclear weapons to counter a nuclear attack on Russia or an ally, or a large-scale conventional attack that threatens Russia's existence.
Russia sees NATO's expansion to include former Soviet republics and former members of the Soviet bloc in Eastern and Central Europe as a key threat to Russia's security.
Court won't send fugitive to U.S.
LISBON | A Lisbon court has denied a U.S. request for the extradition of captured American fugitive George Wright, his lawyer said Thursday.
The U.S. wants Wright returned to serve the rest of his 15- to 30-year jail sentence for a 1962 killing in New Jersey. Wright was captured in Portugal in September after more than four decades on the run.
Wright's lawyer, Manuel Luis Ferreira, told the Associated Press by telephone that the court rejected the U.S. bid.
Mr. Ferreira said the judge accepted his arguments that Wright is now Portuguese and that the statute of limitations on the killing had expired.
He declined to provide further details, saying he would speak to the media later in the day. Court officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Wright has been under house arrest for the past four weeks at his home near Lisbon, wearing an electronic tag that monitors his movements.
Wright spent seven years in a U.S. prison for the New Jersey murder before escaping in 1970, and was on the run for 41 years until his arrest. Wright initially had been held in a Lisbon jail since he was caught.
Pope to articulate position on Africa
COTONOU | Pope Benedict XVI is returning this week to Africa, the Roman Catholic Church's fastest-growing region whose pool of aspiring priests replenish dwindling numbers of clerics elsewhere.
The 84-year-old pope arrives on Friday and will visit a seminary in the western town of Ouidah.
This tiny nation on Africa's western coast is emblematic of the church's growth spurt. In just the past decade, Benin's Catholic population has grown by half, adding more than half-a-million converts.
In the same period the pope's native Germany has lost nearly 2 million worshippers, according to the World Christian Database.
Benedict is planning to release a document outlining the future of the church in Africa, a pastoral guide that is expected to use the church and its doctrine of penance and forgiveness to address Africa's numerous ills, especially the cycle of violence.
The pope's position will likely be guided by the 57 recommendations of the 2009 synod held in the capital of Cameroon, where bishops met to articulate the future of the church in Africa.
Among the proposals is the creation of a "sacrament of reconciliation" by organizing both individual and collective acts of forgiveness, a strategy intended to stem the acts of retribution common to many of Africa's conflicts.
Still no government after 500 days
BRUSSELS | After more than 500 days, the world's longest government negotiations are dragging themselves toward the finish line in Belgium, to the likely relief of markets, the European Union and even the archbishop.
Government broker Elio Di Rupo on Thursday called on the six negotiating parties to agree a 2012 budget that should pave the way to the formation of a new government.
Belgium is facing increasing pressure from the markets to come up with more taxes and expenditure cuts to prevent the country's public finances becoming a real cause for concern. Without a government, investors are worried that long-term reforms will not be enacted.
On Thursday, Belgium's yields on government bonds closed in on 5 percent and up toward the levels that are causing Italy and Spain so many problems at the moment.
Lost cousins unite thanks to Holocaust database
JERUSALEM | For five long years during World War II, Nahum Korenblum never left the side of his younger brother Yaakov as the two fled the Nazi invasion of Poland, escaped forced labor camps across Europe and ultimately joined the Soviet Red Army.
There, they were separated and dispatched abroad, never to meet again.
On Thursday, more than a decade after they died, their children were united at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial thanks to a recently uploaded family photo discovered on its comprehensive online database of Holocaust victims.
It was just the latest successful byproduct of the memorial's database, established years ago as a means of commemoration aimed at gathering the exact names of all the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide.
But since the database went online in 2004, it has become a powerful genealogy tool that has led to hundreds of emotional reunions of long-lost families.
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