December 23, 2013
COLOMBIA
Government plays down CIA ties

Colombia’s government is playing down a Washington Post report that a covert CIA program helped it kill two dozen rebel leaders.

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said Monday that cooperation with U.S. intelligence and special forces has been going on for some time and is widely recognized as having been instrumental in helping break the backs of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The Post on Sunday detailed features of a CIA program that boosted Colombia’s ability to eavesdrop on FARC communications and transform regular munitions into GPS-guided “smart bombs” that were used against high-priority FARC targets.

— Associated Press

RUSSIA
Punk rocker calls for Olympics boycott

The last two imprisoned members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot walked free Monday, criticizing the amnesty measure that released them as a publicity stunt, and with one calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which Russia is hosting.

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were granted amnesty last week in a move largely viewed as the Kremlin’s attempt to soothe criticism of Russia’s human rights record. Tolokonnikova called for the boycott.

Another member of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was previously released on a suspended sentence. All three were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the band’s protest performance at Moscow’s main cathedral in March 2012.

— Associated Press

INDIA
U.N. accredits charged diplomat

The United Nations has approved a request from India to accredit a New York-based diplomat after her arrest by U.S. authorities on criminal charges including visa fraud, a U.N. official said Monday.

The U.S. State Department would still need to approve the transfer for it to take effect.

Indian media said the request to transfer Devyani Khobragade, who was deputy consul general in New York, to the United Nations was aimed at ending the standoff with the United States in the hopes that her new diplomatic status could allow New Delhi to bring her home without the prosecution proceeding.

— Reuters

Blast kills 14 in Egyptian delta city: A powerful explosion believed caused by a car bomb rocked a police headquarters in a Nile Delta city north of Cairo early Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and injuring scores, according to a security official. The state-run Middle East News Agency said the explosion at the Daqahliya security headquarters in Mansour province collapsed part of the five-floor building.

Israeli frees hunger striker: Israel freed a Palestinian prisoner from jail Monday, completing a deal agreed earlier this year in exchange for his halting a lengthy hunger strike that almost killed him. Samer Issawi stopped his nearly nine-month, on-and-off fast in April. His confinement had stoked weeks of protests in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Issawi was convicted of shooting at an Israeli bus in 2002 but released in 2011 along with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Islamist militants had held hostage in the Gaza Strip. Issawi was rearrested in July 2012 for violating the terms of his release.

Gay WWII codebreaker pardoned: Mathematician Alan Turing, who helped Britain win World War II by cracking Nazi Germany’s “unbreakable” Enigma code, was granted a rare royal pardon Tuesday for a criminal conviction for homosexuality that led to his suicide. Turing’s electromechanical machine, a forerunner of modern computers, unraveled the code used by German U-boats in the Atlantic. After being convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having sex with a man, he was stripped of his government job and chemically castrated with injections of female hormones. Homosexual sex was illegal in Britain until 1967. Turing killed himself in 1954, at age 41, with cyanide. Justice Minister Chris Grayling said the pardon from Queen Elizabeth would take effect immediately.

— From news services

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