Pope Ready To Begin Asian Tour
History’s most traveled pope, recently slowed down by illness and infirmity, is hitting the road again.
The 11-day Asian tour beginning Wednesday will be a major test of Pope John Paul II’s stamina and of his slow-healing right leg, broken in a fall in April that caused him to cancel a U.S. visit in October.
But the pope seems especially intent on keeping his appointment with young people in the Philippines, Asia’s most Catholic nation, and showing the papal flag in the church’s outposts in Papua New Guinea, Australia and Sri Lanka.
Indeed, the 74-year-old pontiff aims to lead the world’s 950 million Roman Catholics into the next century, although his health is clearly on his mind.
“They say I’m getting older and not able to walk without a cane. But somehow, I keep on going,” he told pilgrims from his native Poland last week. “To anyone who cares about these things in Poland, tell them this pope isn’t doing so badly.”
Mexican soldiers intimidate villagers San Cristobal De Las Casas, Mexico Mexican soldiers are intimidating villagers near rebel territory in southern Mexico, threatening chances to end the year-old uprising, says an independent commission.
In one village, 500 soldiers are stationed alongside 600 villagers, the group said. In another, soldiers forced farmers to sign out to work in their fields and limited the time they can work.
“The conduct of the army not only contradicts the declarations of the government that it is seeking dialogue and peace, but … increases the climate of tension and the possibilities of an armed confrontation,” said a statement issued Saturday by the Plural Observation Group for Peace in Chiapas.
The army advanced in late December, taking over positions given up by rebels who withdrew after sneaking past soldiers Dec. 19 and taking over 38 villages. A truce has been in effect since then.
Serbs add conditions for truce Pale, Bosnia-Herzegovina The Bosnian Serb military leader said Sunday his forces would not lift their blockade of Sarajevo until government troops withdrew from more territory on a strategic mountain south of the city.
The Serbs’ continued insistence on new conditions for implementing a fourmonth truce, following talks between Gen. Ratko Mladic and U.N. commander Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose, further imperiled the fragile accord.
It seemed unlikely the government army would accept such a demand, as it would wipe out gains from the army’s offensive in the mountains south of Sarajevo last fall.
Rose acknowledged there were “many different issues still to be discussed before the cease-fire is conclusive.”
The truce, which took effect Jan. 1, called for opening access routes into Sarajevo, withdrawing fighters, stationing U.N. forces between the opposing armies, and ending military activities nationwide.
But the standoff around Sarajevo has increasingly jeopardized it, as has fighting in the northwest that includes forces that did not sign the truce.
North Korea says it will end trade bans Seoul, South Korea North Korea said today it will end its ban on trade and financial transactions with the United States as part of a recent nuclear agreement.
The decision, to take effect in mid-January, will allow U.S. ships into North Korean ports and telecommunications links between the two countries, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.
“This means that we have completely fulfilled our obligation under the provision on the reduction of the barriers to trade and investment stipulated in the DPRK (North Korea)-U.S. framework agreement,” an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told the agency.
The Oct. 21 nuclear deal is aimed at dismantling a North Korean nuclear program that many believe can make nuclear weapons. The North will receive two modern nuclear reactors worth $4 billion, plus financial aid and diplomatic recognition.
French composer Louis Gaste dies Paris Composer Louis Gaste, who wrote the song that was plagiarized as the hit “Feelings,” died at his home of cancer Sunday, his entourage said. He was 88.
He also wrote the song known in English as “How Much is that Doggy in the Window?”
Gaste “made French music shine around the world,” said Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac. He “wrote some of the most brilliant pages of French chanson” said former Culture Minister Jack lang.
In 1956, Gaste co-wrote “Pour Toi (For You)” with his wife, singer-actress Line Renaud. The song went nowhere on the charts. But in 1975, Morris Albert adapted it as “Feelings” and it became a staple of lounge-style crooners.
Gaste sued the Brazilian singer-composer over the song and won $500,000 in damages in a U.S. court in 1987.
Police recapture 3 escaped convicts Cowes, Isle of Wight Police on Sunday recaptured three convicts on the Isle of Wight, less than five miles from the maximum-security prison they escaped from five days before.
Murderers Keith Rose, 45, and Andrew Rodger 44, were cornered near a terminal where ferries depart for the 10-mile voyage to Southampton on the south coast of England.
A spotter plane and dogs hunted down the third fugitive, Matthew Williams, 25, who had been convicted of arson and bomb-making. Williams tried to escape by swimming across a river.
Police have been watching the island’s harbors since the escapes.
The three men, all serving life sentences, fled Parkurst Prison on Tuesday night by using a copy of a master key and a homemade ladder.
English-language newspaper folds Prague The first English-language daily newspaper in Eastern Europe has folded after only six weeks, with the publisher conceding that the paper had failed to find enough readers.
The Bohemia Daily Standard, introduced in November with high hopes of appealing to English-speaking business executives, diplomats and travelers, ended publication on Dec. 21.
“We thought we had a magic formula for capturing all the diplomats and businessmen in town,” said the publisher, Erik Best. “We got their attention but not their readership. They knew about it but were not reading it.”
The circulation was indeed very small, even by the standards of the Englishspeaking community in Prague, which is estimated at about 20,000. At the end, the paper was selling about 1,000 copies a week. “We wanted to be in the 2,000 to 2,500 range after a month,” Best said, “and we were doing about half that.”