- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2008


Castro hints at surprise

HAVANA — Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro yesterday fueled suspense about his political future by strongly suggesting he is preparing an announcement for his next print column.

“I shall address an issue of interest to many compatriots,” Mr. Castro, 81 and recovering for more than 18 months from major intestinal surgery, wrote coyly in the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Mr. Castro’s brother and acting president, Raul, said the National Assembly would elect Cuba’s next president on Feb. 24, in the face of speculation that ailing Fidel Castro might not be its choice for the first time in almost five decades.

Meanwhile, dissident Cuban sources in Madrid said yesterday that four journalists are among the seven political prisoners expected to be freed soon in Cuba.


Nazi-era singer sings despite protests

AMSTERDAM — Several dozen people protested outside a theater yesterday where a 104-year-old singer who once performed for Adolf Hitler took the stage in the Netherlands for the first time in four decades.

Johannes Heesters was never accused of being anything other than an actor willing to perform for the Nazis, and the Allies allowed him to continue his career after the war. But in his native country, he is viewed by some as irredeemable.

“He kept singing for the Nazi regime, for the Wehrmacht, and he earned millions,” said Piet Schouten, a representative of a committee formed to protest Mr. Heesters’ performance at De Flint theater in Amersfoort.


Bird flu kills 3-year-old boy

JAKARTA — A 3-year-old Indonesian boy has died of bird flu, a health official said yesterday, announcing the country’s second death from the illness in one day.

The two cases, which were apparently unrelated, brought Indonesia’s bird flu death toll to 105.


Police detain female activists

TEHRAN — Iranian police have detained two women’s rights campaigners and accused them of spreading propaganda against the Islamic state, a fellow activist said yesterday.

Raheleh Asgarzadeh and Nasim Khosravi were detained Thursday in a Tehran park while collecting signatures in support of a campaign to demand greater female rights, activist Sussann Tahmasebi told Reuters news agency.


License plate ‘1’ sold for $14 million

ABU DHABI — A license plate with nothing but the number “1” on it went for a record $14 million at a charity auction yesterday.

Saeed Khouri, a member of a wealthy Abu Dhabi family, wouldn’t say how many automobiles he owned or which of them might carry the record-breaking single-digit plate.

The oil-rich UAE began auctioning off vanity license plates last May. Ordinary automobile license plates issued to drivers here — and even most other vanity series plates — carry both Arabic and Western numerals and script, defining the issuing city and country.

The record sale surpassed the $6.8 million that was paid for an Emirati license plate at an earlier auction with the Western number 5 on it — also without Arabic numerals or letters.

Proceeds from the auctions, which are held in a lavish hotel here, go to a rehabilitation center for victims of traffic accidents.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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