- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009


Candidate assassinated

BAGHDAD | A Shi’ite candidate for provincial elections was assassinated Friday while campaigning south of Baghdad, officials said.

The killing of Hashim al-Husseini highlighted fears that political rivalries will lead to a spike in violence ahead of the Jan. 31 vote for local councils. Mr. al-Husseini was a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party and was running on the party’s State of Law list for a seat on the Babil provincial council.

Meanwhile, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist jailed since throwing his shoes at President Bush, got a visit from his brother Friday and a birthday party from his guards as he turned 30.


$406 million in food aid sought

NAIROBI | Kenya’s president declared the country’s food crisis a national disaster Friday and asked international donors to contribute $406 million toward emergency food aid.

Nearly a third of Kenya’s 34 million people face food shortages because of crop failures after drought last year. Tens of thousands of farmers also were unable to plant crops last year when they were displaced from their land during post-election violence that saw more than 1,000 people killed, President Mwai Kibaki said.


Vote on term limit set for Feb. 15

CARACAS | Venezuelans will vote in a Feb. 15 referendum on whether to allow President Hugo Chavez to stay in office as long as he keeps winning elections, authorities said Friday.

Mr. Chavez has already been in power a decade but said he needs at least another 10 years to deepen popular social reforms. Under current rules, he must leave office in 2013 after serving his maximum of two six-year terms.

Polls conducted in December showed more than half of voters intend to oppose the rule change, with about 40 percent supporting the proposal.


Chavez says Castro ‘working, writing’

CARACAS, Venezuela | Fidel Castro is working, writing and staying on top of world affairs, his friend Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday amid speculation about the former Cuban leader’s health.

The 82-year-old Mr. Castro has not appeared in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006, and a monthlong halt in his regular essays has raised renewed concerns about his condition.

Concern about Mr. Castro’s health grew after he failed to send any message beyond a one-line salutation to the Cuban people on his revolution’s 50th anniversary Jan. 1.


Historian jailed for book damage

LONDON | A wealthy Iranian-born U.S. businessman was jailed for two years by a London court Friday for stealing pages from priceless books at two of Britain’s most famous libraries.

Farhad Hakimzadeh, 60, a Harvard-educated historian, used a blade to cut out about 150 pages, plates and maps, which he later transferred to his own copies at home.

Hakimzadeh pleaded guilty to 14 charges of stealing illustrations from 10 books at the British Library in London and four from the Bodleian Library in Oxford. A British Library spokesman estimated that the damage would cost more than $596,600 to repair.


John Mortimer, writer, dies at 85

LONDON | British lawyer and writer John Mortimer, creator of the curmudgeonly criminal lawyer Rumpole of the Bailey, died Friday. He was 85.

Mr. Mortimer’s family said he died early in the morning at his home in the Chiltern Hills northwest of London, with his wife and children at his side. They did not disclose the cause of death.

Mr. Mortimer combined a career as a lawyer with a large literary output that included dozens of screen and stage plays and radio dramas. His most famous creation was Horace Rumpole, a cigar-smoking, wine-loving barrister who appeared in a TV series and a string of novels and stories.

Mr. Mortimer took up several high profile freedom of speech cases. He defended Penguin, the publisher of D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” against obscenity charges in the 1960s, and later represented the radical magazine Oz at an obscenity trial and defended Gay News magazine against a blasphemy charge.


Angry protesters clash with police

VILNIUS | Violent political protests sweeping parts of Eastern Europe spread Friday to Lithuania, where police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at a rock-throwing mob attacking Parliament.

Fifteen people were injured and more than 80 detained in several hours of street fighting between angry protesters and helmeted riot police.

The violence followed similar riots this week in Bulgaria and Latvia amid a wave of discontent over economic woes, difficult reforms and government corruption.


Court denies bail to jailed blogger

SEOUL | A popular South Korean blogger arrested on accusations of posting false economic information on the Internet has been denied bail, his attorney said Friday.

The 31-year-old blogger, who went by the handle “Minerva” after the Greek goddess of wisdom, and identified in court documents as Park Dae-sung, rocketed to fame in South Korea for his startlingly accurate predictions about the economy, including the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

But prosecutors said he went too far in saying on an online discussion site that the government had banned major financial institutions and trade businesses from purchasing U.S. dollars in an apparent move to shore up the local currency, calling it inaccurate information that disrupted the foreign exchange market.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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