- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009

NEW ZEALAND

U.S. military files on MP3 returned

WELLINGTON | U.S. officials took possession Wednesday of an MP3 player that a New Zealand man found with 60 U.S. military files, including names and telephone numbers of American soldiers, the man said.

Chris Ogle, 29, from the northern city of Whangarei, said he bought the music player in February or March last year for $18 at a thrift shop in Oklahoma City and that he found the files when he linked the device to his computer.

“I was curious enough to keep looking and I guess the more I looked the more intense it seemed to me,” Mr. Ogle told the Associated Press.

The private information in the files included troops’ U.S. Social Security numbers and even which female troops were pregnant.

Details of equipment deployed to bases in Afghanistan, including the main U.S. base of Bagram, and a mission briefing were also found in files, most of them dated 2005. Some of the files included a warning that the release of the contents was “prohibited by federal law.”

CHINA

Tibet targeted in security sweep

BEIJING | China has initiated a security sweep in Tibet ahead of one of the region’s most sensitive anniversaries in years, with state media saying at least 81 people have been detained.

Tibet independence advocates said Wednesday the anti-crime crackdown in the Himalayan region appeared aimed at intimidating Tibetans ahead of the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that prompted the Dalai Lama to flee into exile.

China has been preparing for the possibility of more unrest in Tibet since deadly rioting in the capital, Lhasa, on March 14 last year sparked the biggest anti-government demonstrations by Tibetans in decades - and a major military crackdown.

China claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, while many Tibetans assert their Himalayan region was independent for centuries.

CANADA

Opposition rethinks toppling government

OTTAWA | Canada’s main opposition party backed away from plans to topple the Conservative government, saying Wednesday the prime minister would remain “on probation” if he agrees to give periodic economic status reports in Parliament.

The opposition Liberals had vowed to use a parliamentary confidence vote to take down Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government if Mr. Harper’s proposed stimulus plan fell short.

But Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said he would support Mr. Harper’s $32 billion plan if it also requires reports to Parliament.

“We are putting this government on probation,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “Should Mr. Harper fail to satisfy the expectations of Canadians, we will be ready to defeat him.”

UNITED NATIONS

U.N. nuclear chief critical of BBC

VIENNA, Austria | The head of the U.N. nuclear agency canceled interviews with the BBC over its refusal to air an appeal for victims of the Gaza conflict, saying Wednesday that the decision violated “basic human decency.”

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei added an influential voice to growing criticism of Britain’s publicly funded broadcaster, which says airing the appeal would have damaged its impartiality in coverage of the conflict.

Mr. ElBaradei’s office said he had canceled scheduled interviews with BBC radio and World Service television because he believes the broadcaster’s refusal to air the appeal “violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong.”

Mr. ElBaradei’s outspokenness on the issue is unusual for the head of a U.N. agency.

VATICAN

Pope warns against Holocaust deniers

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday expressed his “full and indisputable solidarity” with Jews and warned against any denial of the horror of the Holocaust.

With his comments, the pope was reaching out to Jews angered by his recent decision to rehabilitate a bishop who says no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust.

The Vatican had already distanced itself from comments by Bishop Richard Williamson, a Briton who has denied that 6 million Jews were murdered during World War II. The Holy See said that lifting his excommunication by no means implied the Vatican shared Bishop Williamson’s views.

Wednesday’s remarks were the first personal comments on the issue by the pope since the controversy erupted.

ICELAND

Gay woman expected to be prime minister

REYKJAVIK | Iceland is set to appoint the world’s first openly gay female interim prime minister. She is a former flight attendant who rose through the political ranks to become a Cabinet minister.

Johanna Sigurdardottir, the island nation’s 66-year-old social affairs minister, is the pick of the Social Democratic Alliance Party to lead an interim government.

Iceland’s conservative-led government failed Monday, a result of the country’s banks collapsing in the fall under the weight of huge debts amassed during years of rapid economic growth. The country’s currency has plummeted, while inflation and unemployment have soared.

Ms. Sigurdardottir’s appointment is expected to be confirmed within days by the new ruling coalition of the Alliance party and the Left-Green movement. She would lead Iceland until general elections, which are expected in May.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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