February 23
VENEZUELA
President to meet opposition leader

A meeting between a top Venezuelan opposition leader and President Nicolás Maduro on Monday may help ease nearly two weeks of anti-government protests that have killed at least eight people.

Henrique Capriles, governor of Miranda state, will meet the president at a routine gathering of governors and mayors and will probably get a chance to present the grievances of the opposition.

Maduro has called the demonstrations acts of terrorism by “fascists” seeking a coup similar to the one that briefly ousted Hugo Chávez in 2002. But Maduro has expressed willingness to meet Capriles.

The unrest began Feb. 12 with the death of a student protester and was fueled by the arrest of hard-line opposition leader Leopoldo López.

— Reuters

VATICAN
Pope tells cardinals they’re not royals

Pope Francis urged a group of new cardinals, the top echelon of the Roman Catholic Church, to shun the intrigue, gossip and cliques typical of a royal court. Since his election nearly a year ago, Francis has often told his top aides not to live or behave like a privileged class.

On Sunday, Francis celebrated a Mass with 18 cardinals who were elevated to that rank on Saturday. One could not attend Sunday because of illness.

“A cardinal enters the Church of Rome, not a royal court,” Francis said in a sermon at St. Peter’s Basilica, welcoming the men into the elite group that helps him run the church.

“May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism and preferences,” the pontiff added.

— Reuters

THAILAND
Attack on protesters kills 2 in Bangkok

An apparent grenade attack on anti-government demonstrators occupying an upscale shopping area of Bangkok killed at least two people, including a 12-year-old boy, on Sunday, the latest violence in a months-long political crisis that is growing bloodier by the day.

The attack in the Thai capital followed an assault Saturday on anti-government protesters in eastern Thailand that killed a 5-year-old girl and wounded dozens. A protest leader, Sathit Wongnongtoey, said Sunday’s explosion was caused by a grenade.

The attacks were the latest in a spate of protest-related violence roiling Thailand over the past three months, with at least 18 people killed and hundreds hurt.

The protesters want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to make way for an appointed interim government.

— Associated Press

New Italian premier set for first test of power: Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi faces his first test before a fractious national parliament Monday when he goes before the Senate to put flesh on his ambitious reform plans and seek to win a vote of confidence in his newly installed government. Matteo, backed by his center-left Democratic Party (PD), the small center-­right NCD party, centrists and other miscellaneous groups, should have enough support in the 320-seat upper house. But close attention will be paid to the size of his majority after some left-wingers from his own party threatened to vote against the government.

Prosecutor accuses Morsi of passing state secrets to Iran: An Egyptian prosecutor accused ousted president Mohamed Morsi of passing state secrets to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the first such explicit detail in an ongoing espionage trial. If convicted, Morsi could face capital punishment. At Sunday’s hearing, part of which was aired on state television, the prosecution accused him and 35 other Muslim Brotherhood members of conspiring to destabilize Egypt and cooperating with foreign militant groups.

Attacks kill at least 17 across Iraq: At least 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in bombings and shootings in northern Iraq and Baghdad, police and medical sources said. In the deadliest attack, gunmen killed three police officers and four detainees traveling in a police convoy near the northern city of Baiji. Clashes and bombings have become a daily occurrence in Iraq as resurgent Sunni militants have launched a sustained campaign of suicide bombings.

Hard-line Serb wins mayorship in race that included slaying: A hard-line Kosovo Serb has become the mayor of Mitrovica North after a prolonged electoral race soured by the killing of one candidate and the arrest of another. Goran Rakic, a Belgrade-backed candidate, won 52.6 percent of the ballots. Rakic’s main contender, Oliver Ivanovic, is in detention after a European Union prosecutor indicted him on suspicion of committing war crimes against ethnic Albanians in 1999. In January, Dimitrije Janicijevic, a candidate for mayor from a party that collaborates with ethnic Albanians, was fatally shot outside his house.

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe celebrates 90th birthday: Robert Mugabe celebrated his 90th birthday Sunday, having spent more than a third of his life as leader of Zimbabwe, lauded as a liberation hero by some and condemned as a human rights abuser by others. At a birthday party-cum-political rally in a football stadium, Mugabe showed no signs of ill health. “I am made to feel youthful and as energetic as a boy of nine,” Mugabe told thousands of supporters at the event.

— From news services

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