Queen hands out presents on birthday
LONDON | Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II handed out presents at Westminster Abbey as she celebrated her 85th birthday Thursday.
The sovereign’s birthday for the first time coincided with Maundy Thursday, the day marking Jesus’ Last Supper, when the queen traditionally gives special coins to as many men and as many women as the years of her life.
No-go zone declared around nuclear plant
FUTABA, Japan | Residents rushed back into the 12-mile evacuation zone around Japan’s radiation-spewing nuclear power plant Thursday, grabbing whatever belongings they could before an order went into effect legally banning entry to the area.
Officials said the order announced Thursday was meant to limit exposure to radiation leaking from the plant and to prevent thefts.
Almost all of the zone’s nearly 80,000 residents left when the area was evacuated March 12, but police had not been able to legally block them from going back.
Under a special emergency law, people who enter the zone will be subject to fines of up to $1,200 or possible detention of up to 30 days.
Kurdish candidates can run for parliament
ANKARA | Turkey’s top election body on Thursday reversed a decision that barred several Kurdish candidates from running in a parliamentary vote in June - a move likely to ease violence that has killed one protester and left dozens wounded.
The High Election Board voted unanimously to allow six of seven candidates, backed by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, to run for parliament in June 12 elections. The board accepted arguments that the six candidates were not a threat to the public if they ran for office.
The board’s initial decision to bar the candidates from the ballots sparked outrage in the mainly Kurdish southeast, where protesters attacked banks and police with firebombs and stones.
Pope praises John Paul II during preparation for Easter
Pope Benedict XVI warmly praised his predecessor Pope John Paul II in a Holy Thursday address days before John Paul’s May 1 beatification, holding him up as a example of faith amid Western indifference to Christianity.
Benedict said that “for all the shame we feel over our failings,” the world must not forget what he called radiant examples of faith such as John Paul.
Beatification is the last step toward sainthood in the Roman Catholic faith.
Activists vow largest protests yet
BEIRUT, Lebanon | Ahead of what could turn out to be a decisive day for Syria, protesters took credit Thursday for forcing President Bashar Assad to lift the country’s 50-year state of emergency and brushed off his attempts to placate the monthlong uprising against his authoritarian regime.
Activists said they were planning the biggest protests to date Friday against Mr. Assad, who inherited power from his late father 11 years ago but has failed to deliver on early promises of sweeping reform.
Man charged with murder of Chinese student
TORONTO | A dishelved man appeared in court Thursday on charges of murdering a Chinese woman whose scuffle with her assailant was seen via webcam by her helpless boyfriend in China.
But police were not releasing details about the crime or its motive.
The body of York University student Liu Qian, 23, of Beijing, was found Friday in her apartment in Toronto a few hours after her boyfriend witnessed the attack, police said. She was naked from the waist down, but there were no obvious signs of sexual assault or trauma severe enough to kill her. The autopsy was inconclusive.
Brian Dickson, 29, stood before the court in a very wrinkled white shirt and blue jeans as a charge of first-degree murder was read out. He did not enter a plea. His case was held over until April 26. The justice of the peace imposed a publication ban on nearly all other details.
From wire dispatches and staff reports