Violence flares amid political crisis

A series of attacks left at least 25 Iraqis dead on Tuesday, in the latest outbreak of violence amid a protracted political crisis. In addition, a hostage was killed with his two kidnappers in a police operation west of Samarra, a police source said. It was unclear whether the hostage, the cousin of a member of Parliament, was killed by the kidnappers or the police. Since last month, the country has witnessed almost daily episodes of sectarian-related violence at a time of increasing political strife.


Embassy: Some Russia orphans U.S.-bound

Some of the Russian children caught in limbo by their country's ban on adoptions by Americans have left for the United States with their new parents, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Wednesday. It was the first official word that any of the 46 children had been allowed to leave Russia, and made it clear that all of these adoptions could now go forward. Hundreds more families were in some earlier phase of pursuing an adoption from Russia. The Supreme Court ruling appears to put an end to their hopes.


N. Korea lashes out after condemnation

North Korea swiftly lashed out against the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of its December launch of a long-range rocket, saying Wednesday that it will strengthen its military defenses -- including its nuclear weaponry -- in response.


Calm returns to East African capital

Calm reportedly returned to the capital of the small nation of Eritrea, a day after a group of soldiers apparently made a move against the East African country's repressive regime by trying to take over the nation's state broadcasting. Two Eritrea experts said more than 100 dissident soldiers stormed the Ministry of Information in Asmara on Monday and began to read a statement on state TV saying the country's 1997 constitution would be put into force. The broadcast was cut off after only two sentences; the Eritrean ambassador to South Africa denied that anything had happened.


Japan makes overture in island dispute

A member of Japan's coalition government arrived in Beijing carrying a letter for the head of the Communist Party, Xi Jinping, from the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to try to help calm the escalating dispute between the two countries over contested islands in the East China Sea, Japanese officials said. The feud over the islands reached a dangerous new level nearly two weeks ago, when Japan and China scrambled jet fighters. Separately, the Philippines announced that it would formally challenge China's claims in the South China Sea before a United Nations tribunal that oversees the Convention on the Law of the Sea.


Orthodox leader gets 103 years for sex abuse

An esteemed religious counselor in New York City's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community was sentenced to 103 years in prison for molesting a girl who came to him with questions about her faith. Nechemya Weberman, 54, was convicted in December of 59 counts, including sustained sexual abuse of a child. He testified in his own defense, saying he "never, ever" abused the girl, and maintained his innocence at sentencing. The girl's school had ordered her to see Weberman because she had been asking questions about her religion and was dressing immodestly in violation of customs.


General defers plea on sex charges

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, a veteran of five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, deferred entering a plea to criminal charges at his court-martial at Fort Bragg. He is accused of 25 violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Among the charges are forcible sodomy, sexual misconduct and violating orders. Sinclair, who was removed from command in Afghanistan in May, is accused of conducting improper sexual relationships with subordinate female officers and a civilian. Prosecutors say he forced a female captain to engage in sex and threatened to kill the officer and her family if she told anyone.