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In brief: U.N. says 800,000 forced to flee in ’11

GENEVA – Crises in Libya, Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere prompted 800,000 people to flee their countries last year, the highest number in 11 years, the United Nations’ refugee agency says.

A report issued today by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that, including people who fled their homes but not their countries, the total number of newly displaced people worldwide in 2011 was 4.3 million. The number of new cross-border refugees was the highest since it hit 822,000 in 2000.

However, the total number who were either refugees, internally displaced or in the process of seeking asylum at the end of last year declined to 42.5 million from 43.7 million in 2010. The reason was that 3.2 million people who were uprooted but stayed inside their countries were able to return home, the highest rate in more than a decade, the agency said.

But it said the latest figures point to worrying trends, including a consistently high number of displaced people over several years now. The total has exceeded 42 million people for each of the past five years.

Suicide attacks kill 21 at three churches

KADUNA, Nigeria – Suicide bombers killed 21 people in attacks on three churches in Nigeria during Sunday services, exacerbating religious tensions in a West African nation that is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.

Authorities arrested one of the bombers who survived, said Kaduna state police chief Mohammed Abubakar Jinjiri, but he declined to say who police suspect was responsible for the bombings.

It was the third Sunday in a row that deadly attacks have been carried out against Christian churches in northern Nigeria. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest one, but suspicion fell on the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram because it took responsibility for the two earlier weekend assaults.

Branson bringing bird back to islands

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands – Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson said he is reintroducing a flame-red bird to the British Virgin Islands.

The Virgin Group boss said on his blog that a Scarlet Ibis was recently born on his private island in the British Caribbean territory.

Branson said it’s “the first Scarlet Ibis born in the British Virgin Islands for over 100 years.”

He has developed an exclusive eco-resort on Necker Island that showcases renewable energy technology and successfully reintroduced flamingos there.

Branson said he hopes the protected Scarlet Ibises will be as successful as the flamingos so the U.K. territory “can enjoy the beauty of these birds.”


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Veteran Republican strategist Steve Schmidt renounces GOP

Veteran Republican campaign strategist Steve Schmidt said Wednesday he is renouncing the GOP – in part because of what he calls President Donald Trump’s unethical and corrupt behavior, but more because the party’s leadership in Congress has failed to hold Trump to account.