Havana – Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson arrived in Cuba on Wednesday to seek the freedom of a U.S. government subcontractor sentenced to 15 years in prison for bringing communications equipment to the island illegally.
It was the first sign that intensifying calls for Maryland-native Alan Gross’ release might bear fruit after months of false hopes.
A lawyer for Gross said Richardson made the trip at the invitation of the Cuban government, though Richardson himself would not confirm that, nor say what he hoped to accomplish on the trip.
Gross has been jailed since his arrest in December 2009. Cuba says he was distributing satellite telephones and other communications equipment that are illegal to use without authorization.
Gross has said that he was only trying to help Cuba’s tiny Jewish community improve Internet access.
23 die in suicide blast at officer’s home
Islamabad, Pakistan – Two suicide bombers attacked the home of a senior military officer Wednesday in the western city of Quetta, wounding him and killing at least 23 people in a possible revenge attack for Pakistan’s recent arrest of a senior al-Qaida commander.
Among the dead were the wife of Brig. Farukh Shehzad, the deputy head of the paramilitary Frontier Corps for the province, who was the target of the attack, and eight security personnel.
The blast came two days after Pakistan announced that it had arrested in Quetta Younis al-Mauritani, a leading strategist in al-Qaida with responsibility for planning attacks against the West, along with two other al-Qaida figures.
Bad school food, water sickens 300
Beijing – Nearly 300 Chinese primary and middle school students have been sickened by unsafe food or water provided by their schools in five separate incidents over the past week, state media said Thursday.
The rash of food poisoning cases coincides with the start of the new school year.
The latest case occurred Wednesday in Shandong province, affecting 86 primary school students who became ill after eating lunch, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Ten remained under observation in hospitals today, it said, and authorities were testing the school’s food for problems.
Four other cases affecting 205 kids were reported in Hebei and Jiangxi provinces in the past week, Xinhua said.