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U.S. officials say privately, however, that Havana has made it increasingly clear they want a quid pro quo, which Washington repeatedly has rejected.


Tower housing Big Ben gets a new name

LONDON — The iconic Clock Tower of Britain’s Parliament was officially renamed Wednesday in honor of Queen Elizabeth II.

The 315-foot-high structure — widely, though incorrectly, known as Big Ben — is one of Britain’s most recognizable landmarks.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow unveiled a new name plaque designating the structure the Elizabeth Tower.

The renaming ceremony is the culmination of a campaign by lawmakers to mark the monarch’s 60 years on the throne.


Premier calls for protesters to be freed

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday called for three members of a punk band to be freed, a sign that the women’s release could be imminent since their case comes up for appeal Oct. 1.

The band members were arrested for performing a raucous prayer inside Moscow’s main cathedral asking Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin as he went into the election that handed him a third term as president.

They already had spent more than five months in jail when they were convicted in August of “hooliganism driven by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in prison.

By being the one to call for the women’s release, Mr. Medvedev, who has cultivated the image of a more liberal leader, could allow Mr. Putin to put the uncomfortable case behind him while not appearing weak.

The outward appearance of the women, who perform in bright-colored miniskirts and balaclavas, and the “hysteria” accompanying them made him sick, Mr. Medvedev said with disdain. But he said keeping them in prison any longer would be “unproductive.”

The band members’ imprisonment has come to symbolize Mr. Putin’s intensifying crackdown on dissent after his return to the presidency.

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