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The Socialist president’s visit comes as Algeria celebrates 50 years of independence following a brutal seven-year war that ended 132 years of colonial rule. French ties with the gas-rich nation have been fraught with tension since its independence in 1962.

Large numbers of Algerians and some political parties have sought an apology from France for inequalities suffered by the population under colonial rule and for brutality during the war.


Soyuz spacecraft heads for space station

BAIKONUR — A Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American, a Russian and a Canadian headed Wednesday for the International Space Station, where they will spend four months carrying out dozens of experiments.

The spacecraft launched from a Russian-leased manned-space facility in the frigid steppes of Kazakhstan at 6:12 p.m. It took off atop a Russian rocket and went into orbit about 15 minutes later.

American Tom Marshburn, Russian Roman Romanenko and Canadian Chris Hadfield will travel two days in the capsule before docking with the mammoth space station, where three other people already are onboard.


Authorities to probe charges against ex-leader

BRASILIA — Brazil’s attorney general said Wednesday he will look into allegations that popular former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva knew about a massive cash-for-votes scheme in Congress that led to the recent convictions of 25 people in a landmark trial.

Roberto Gurgel said he will examine statements by businessman Marcos Valerio that Mr. da Silva approved of the so-called “mensalao” monthly payout scheme and used cash from it for personal expenses while in office. Mr. da Silva denies the allegations.

Valerio was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison and fined $1.3 million for being what the Supreme Court called the “operator” of the scheme, which gave legislators cash handouts in return for their support of Mr. da Silva’s policies after he took office in 2003.

Valerio made the claims against Mr. da Silva in testimony to federal prosecutors in September, after he had been convicted but before he was sentenced.


$500 million in checks left at holy site

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