- - Thursday, September 8, 2011

CUBA

Hopes rise for release of jailed American

HAVANA — A surprise visit by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has revived hope that Cuba may soon free a U.S. government subcontractor whose imprisonment has snarled efforts to improve relations between the two countries.

An attorney for Alan Gross, who is serving 15 years for illegally bringing communications equipment to the island nation, said Mr. Richardson came at Havana’s invitation.

Mr. Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has a long history of winning the release of prisoners and a working relationship with Cuba’s leaders.

WEST BANK

Palestinians launch statehood campaign

RAMALLAH — The Palestinians on Thursday officially launched their campaign to join the United Nations as a full member state, saying they would stage a series of peaceful events in the run-up to the annual gathering of the General Assembly later this month.

Some 100 Palestinian officials and activists gathered at U.N. offices in Ramallah for a short ceremony, where they announced their plans in a letter addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

RUSSIA

President demands better aviation safety

YAROSLAVL — President Dmitry Medvedev called for immediate changes in Russia’s troubled aviation industry Thursday - including sharply reducing the number of airlines - as the country mourned a crash that killed 43 people and devastated a top ice hockey team.

The crash Wednesday killed 36 players, coaches and staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team, including European and former NHL players, drawing new attention to Russia’s poor air-safety record.

Experts blame the problems on an aging fleet, weak government controls, poor pilot training and a cost-cutting mentality.

SYRIA

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