Sunday, June 21, 2009


2 hostages’ bodies handed over in Iraq

LONDON | The bodies of two British hostages kidnapped in Iraq in 2007 have been handed over to U.K. officials, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Saturday. He said the government feared three other Britons taken hostage with them were in grave danger.

Mr. Miliband said in a televised statement that “late last night we received the bodies of two hostages.”

Information technology consultant Peter Moore and his four bodyguards were kidnapped May 29, 2007, by heavily armed men outside the Finance Ministry in Baghdad. Since then, the hostages have been seen only on a few videos, and the British government has released little information about efforts to free them.

The bodies have not been formally identified but “our immediate thoughts are clearly with the families” of the five men, who were kidnapped by Shi’ite militants, Mr. Miliband said.

Mr. Moore’s father, Graeme Moore, said the family was “clinging on to hope” that he was still alive. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office said the British leader was “saddened and dismayed by the news.”


Zimbabwean faces anti-Mugabe anger

LONDON | Angry protesters shouted Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai off stage Saturday when he appealed to exiles to return to the battered African nation.

Mr. Tsvangirai, who reluctantly joined President Robert Mugabe in a power-sharing deal in February, made the appeal to exiles in a London church Saturday, but was forced off stage briefly by protesters who want Mr. Mugabe to step down after 28 years in power.

“Zimbabweans must come home,” Mr. Tsvangirai told a crowd of about 1,000 people. “We have also made sure that there is peace and stability in the country,” said Mr. Tsvangirai, who was then bombarded with shouts and chants of “Mugabe must go!”

Mr. Tsvangirai returned to the stage to answer questions, but only after church officials managed to calm the crowd.

Convincing exiles to return is a tough sell - Zimbabwe has had the highest inflation rate in the world, most of the population lacks food, human rights abuses have persisted and thousands have died during a major cholera outbreak.


Heroes’ welcome for soccer team

SEOUL | North Korea’s soccer team returned home Saturday to a rousing heroes’ welcome, complete with a brass band and bouquets, after securing a spot in the World Cup for the first time in more than 40 years.

But the heirs to the “Red Mosquitoes,” the underdog darlings of the 1966 World Cup, are unlikely to bask in the same international welcome when they travel to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.

North Korea’s return to soccer’s most prominent tournament - secured Wednesday with a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia - has been overshadowed by the string of North Korean provocations that have had the world on edge in recent months.


Girl adopted by Madonna leaves

LILONGWE | Madonna’s new daughter has flown out of her native Malawi on a private jet headed for London, a person familiar with Madonna’s adoption proceedings in this southern African country said Saturday.

An airport employee said 3-year-old Chifundo “Mercy” James, the second child Madonna has adopted from Malawi, left late Friday headed to London. Madonna has homes in England and in the United States.

Malawi’s highest court had granted the adoption June 12, overturning an April lower court ruling that Madonna had not spent enough time in Malawi to be given a child.


Leader survives confidence vote

HAMILTON | Bermuda’s prime minister survived a no-confidence vote Saturday aimed at punishing him for allowing four former terrorism-suspect prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to settle in the British island territory.

Parliament rejected the resolution on a 22-11 vote after 14 hours of debate that went through the night.

Opposition lawmakers accused Prime Minister Ewart Brown of “autocratic” behavior for agreeing in secret with U.S. authorities to accept the men, ethnic Uighurs originally from western China, without consulting political leaders in Bermuda or the British government.


Government drops ‘i before e’ rule

LONDON | It’s a spelling mantra that generations of schoolchildren have learned - “i before e, except after c.”

But new British government guidance tells teachers not to pass on the rule to students, because there are too many exceptions.

The “Support For Spelling” document, which is being sent to thousands of primary schools, says the rule “is not worth teaching” because it doesn’t account for words like ‘sufficient,’ ‘veil’ and ‘their.’

Jack Bovill of the Spelling Society, which advocates simplified spelling, said Saturday he agreed with the decision. But supporters say the ditty has value because it is one of the few language rules that most people remember.


Sheep herders drag migrants on street

PATRAS | Two Greek sheep herders have been arrested for attaching two Bangladeshi migrant workers to their motorcycles and dragging them through the street for purportedly stealing their animals, police said Saturday.

The herders, who did not tell police about their stolen sheep, went to a migrant workers’ camp in Manolada in southern Greece about 30 miles from Patras, and beat up one Bangladeshi until he denounced two of his fellow countrymen.

They found the Bangladeshi men, ages 27 and 40, whom they assaulted and attached to their motorcyles, causing a spectacle in the town’s streets, dragging the men about 400 yards.

Local residents called the police who arrested the two Greeks for their violent attack, but also detained the Bangladeshis as suspects in the sheep theft.

Migrants come to the region as seasonal laborers, mainly picking strawberries, to protest their harsh work conditions. The migrant workers also go elsewhere in Greece to harvest potatoes, olives and watermelons.


18 endangered gorillas ‘baptized’

KINIGI | Rwanda “baptized” 18 rare baby mountain gorillas at what has become an annual event to highlight the plight of the endangered species.

The baby gorillas, however, were not physically present at the colorful ceremony at the edge of a national park where the primates live.

Eighteen masked people represented the gorillas at the event, which included songs and dances, attended by senior government officials, including Prime Minister Bernard Makuza.

Tourism Minister Monique Nsanzabaganwa said government was expanding the size of the volcanic park by 10 percent by the end of the year in a bid to promote the conservation of the gorillas.

The ceremony was the fifth of its kind in Rwanda in as many years. A total of 103 gorillas have been baptized and officially received a name so far, according to a count by Agence France-Presse.

The world’s last mountain gorillas are concentrated in the mountains straddling the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. They number around 700 in all, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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