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World in brief: McCain asks NATO to fight Taliban

Sen. John McCain on Saturday urged the United States’ reluctant NATO partners to allow their troops to engage in combat operations against the resurgent Taliban, especially in Afghanistan’s rebellious south.

The Arizona Republican, a likely contender in the 2008 presidential race, also criticized Pakistan for tolerating sanctuaries for Taliban fighters and other Islamic militants in tribal regions along its borders with Afghanistan.

Taliban officials say they use these tribal areas for recruiting, training and staging cross-border raids. “The Taliban remains a very big threat, and we have a long way go to before they are eradicated,” McCain said.


Rock star’s move shocks the French

Johnny Hallyday is the closest thing France has to Elvis, so the veteran rocker’s announcement that he is moving across the border to Switzerland to escape high taxes has come as a bombshell.

In the highly politicized atmosphere of pre-election France, the singer’s decision is taking on political dimensions, too. Score one for presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy: If the conservative who is promising lower taxes wins next spring’s elections, Hallyday says he may move back.

“Like many French, I’m sick of paying what is imposed on us in the way of taxes,” said Hallyday, a grizzled icon, known simply as “Johnny” to his fans.


Ailing Castro calls lawmakers, Chavez

Fidel Castro telephoned a meeting of provincial legislative leaders, the Communist Party daily said Saturday in a report apparently aimed at quelling rumors about the ailing Cuban leader’s health.

The call by Castro to provincial leaders Friday and another to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez the same day constituted the first news in 11 days about the convalescing 80-year-old, who has not been seen in public in more than four months.


Paralyzed man denied right to die

An Italian judge rejected a paralyzed man’s request to be removed from a respirator Saturday, ruling that the law does not permit the denial of lifesaving care and urging lawmakers to confront the issue.

Piergiorgio Welby, whose body has been devastated by muscular dystrophy, had pleaded repeatedly to be allowed to die of his disease, and his case has divided politicians and doctors in Italy. The Roman Catholic Church, which wields significant moral and political influence in Italy, teaches that life should reach its “natural end.”

Judge Angela Salvio ruled that Welby has a constitutional right to halt his treatment, but she noted that Italy’s medical code requires doctors to maintain the life of a patient. Physicians, she wrote, “even when faced with the request of the patient, must not carry out … treatments aimed at causing death.”