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Germany wants CIA to provide details

Berlin Germany said Wednesday that it still wanted a full explanation of the alleged CIA abduction of a German citizen, as European Parliament members said an investigative committee should determine whether the CIA held terrorism suspects in secret European prisons.

Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says that he was seized in Macedonia on Dec. 31, 2003, and taken by CIA agents to Afghanistan, where he was allegedly abused before being released in Albania in May 2004.

Al-Masri is suing the CIA for wrongful imprisonment and torture. At the same time, the European Union has been roiled by allegations that the CIA held terrorism suspects in secret prisons in member nations.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told parliament Wednesday that the government only learned of al-Masri’s case after his release.

Steinmeier, who was chief of staff under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the time, said German diplomats and security officials made dozens of requests for information about al-Masri’s case from the United States and other countries.

A CIA spokesman in Washington said the agency had no comment.

Senior members of the European Parliament, meanwhile, proposed setting up an investigative committee to determine whether U.S. agents held terror suspects in secret European prisons.

Nine in Brazil charged with bird smuggling

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil Brazilian authorities raided warehouses in five states Wednesday and arrested nine people accused of smuggling rare birds for sale in Europe and the United States.

Police also seized some 2,000 birds awaiting shipment during the raid, the first in Brazil to uncover an international wildlife smuggling ring, the government environmental protection agency Ibama said.

The nine suspects will face charges of contraband, mistreatment of wildlife and criminal association, federal police officer Alvaro Palharini said. The crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The birds seized included macaws, toucans, parrots, cardinals and canaries, as well as seed-finches and saltators, considered endangered in Brazil. The birds were being smuggled to Argentina and Uruguay, then shipped to lucrative markets in Europe and the United States, Ibama said. In Europe, a blue macaw can fetch $30,000. The birds will be transferred to private reserves licensed by the government.

Group of priests say they’re still good priests

Vatican City A group of gay Italian clergy said Wednesday that their homosexuality has not stopped them from being good priests, a direct response to a recent Vatican policy statement banning priestly candidates with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies.

The message, an open letter in which the priests said they felt like the church’s “unloved and unwanted children,” was posted on the Web site of the Italian Catholic news agency Adista. The agency last month leaked the Vatican instruction on gay priests a week before its scheduled release by the Holy See.

Adista said 39 priests, 26 diocesans and 13 more members of various religious orders had signed the letter.

“We don’t have more problems living chastely than heterosexuals do, because homosexuality is not a synonym of incontinence, nor of uncontrollable urges,” the letter states. “We are not sick with sex and our homosexual tendency has not damaged our psychic health.”


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4 ex-presidents among hundreds at Barbara Bush’s funeral

UPDATED: 9:46 a.m.

Four former presidents joined ambassadors, sports stars and hundreds of other mourners on a gray, rainy Saturday at the private funeral for former first lady Barbara Bush, filling the nation’s largest Episcopal church a day after more than 6,000 people paid their respects to the woman known by many as “America’s matriarch.”