Hostage crisis figure named vice president

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has given a vice-presidential post to a hard-liner turned reformer who once served as a spokeswoman for the hostage takers at the U.S. Embassy after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, an adviser said Tuesday.

The selection of Masoomeh Ebtekar as vice president for environmental affairs underscores how many supporters of the overthrow of Iran’s Western-backed monarchy more than 30 years ago now side with moderates. Their complaints include the belief that the ruling clerics have become too oriented toward battling the West and need to adopt more international outreach in a globalized world.

Ebtekar, fluent in English from years living in the United States during her childhood, was a main spokesperson during the 444-day hostage standoff. Referred to as “Mary” by the foreign media, she frequently appeared on U.S. television as an interpreter for the hostage takers, who held 52 captives until January 1981.

— Associated Press

Pope: Use old church facilities for refugees

Disused church buildings should be used to house refugees, who must be embraced rather than feared, Pope Francis told asylum seekers at the Jesuit Astalli Center in Rome on Tuesday, underlining his papacy’s emphasis on the poor and the plight of immigrants.

Convents and monasteries have been emptied by the fall in the number of people undertaking religious vocations. Turning them into hotels has raised funds for the Catholic Church, but also has attracted criticism.

“Empty convents and monasteries should not be turned into hotels by the church to earn money,” Francis said. The pope added that the buildings “are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ, which is what the refugees are.”

— Reuters

Boy given implants after eyes gouged out

A 6-year-old Chinese boy whose eyes were gouged out in a gruesome attack last month received implants Tuesday at a hospital in southern China owned by a Hong Kong doctor who offered to do the operation after learning of the incident.

The implants are a precursor to fitting the boy with prosthetic eyes that will look and move more like normal eyes, but do not restore vision. Doctors at the C-MER (Shenzhen) Dennis Lam Eye Hospital also plan to fit Guo Bin — nicknamed Bin-Bin — with navigation sensors that would allow the boy to get around on his own in familiar places.

“As his parents, we are full of hope,” the boy’s father, Guo Zhiping, said.

— Associated Press

At least 24 killed in fresh violence in Iraq: A new wave of bombings and a shooting in Iraq killed at least 24 civilians as insurgents press their apparent goal of exploiting the country’s political instability. The deadliest attack took place in the town of Yusufiyah, just south of Baghdad, when gunmen stormed a house and shot dead two women and four men as they were ritually cleansing the body of a Sunni man for his funeral, police said. In nearby Latifiyah, a bomb hidden in a coffee shop killed four. And in the central Iraqi town of Baqubah, three car bombs targeting outdoor markets killed at least 10 civilians.

Central African Republic’s military chief fired: The president of Central African Republic, Michel Djotodia, removed his military chief of staff after recent clashes killed as many as 60 people and displaced tens of thousands. Djotodia’s Seleka rebels ousted Francois Bozize in March, and Djotodia has vowed to hold elections within 18 months. Over the weekend, suspected pro-Bozize fighters clashed with Seleka at several locations in the northwest.

Egyptian army kills 9 in ongoing Sinai offensive: Egyptian army troops backed by helicopter gunships attacked suspected hideouts of Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula, killing nine and arresting 10, a military official said. The latest raids raised the death toll from four days of operations to 29.