In brief: Mass abduction reported in Mexico City
Mexico City – Eleven young people were brazenly kidnapped in broad daylight from an after-hours bar in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa, a normally calm district of offices, restaurants, drinking spots and dance clubs, anguished relatives said Thursday.
The apparent mass abduction purportedly happened sometime between 10 a.m. and noon on Sunday morning just off the Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s main boulevard, near the Angel of Independence monument and only about 11/2 blocks from the U.S. Embassy.
The incident was the second recent high-publicity blemish for the city’s largely unregulated entertainment scene, coming 20 days after the grandson of American civil rights activist Malcolm X was beaten to death at another tough bar in the downtown area.
Calling for authorities to find their loved ones, family members marched Thursday from the Interior Department building to the Zocalo, the city’s main square.
Any pact needs popular vote, Assad says
Beirut – Any agreement reached at prospective peace talks on Syria would have to be approved by the Syrian people in a nationwide referendum, President Bashar Assad said in a television interview aired Thursday.
A confident Assad said his government would participate in the peace conference, sponsored by the United States and Russia, and would negotiate directly with the opposition absent any preconditions, but he insisted that any agreement would have to be put to the ballot.
“Either side can propose anything, but nothing can be implemented without the approval of the Syrian people,” Assad said, according to the official Syrian transcript of the interview.
An agreement reached last year in Geneva, which forms the basis of the projected new talks, called for negotiations leading to the formation of a transitional government accepted by both sides in the conflict. But Assad said such an administration, which would sideline the president, also would have to pass in a popular referendum.
Left unanswered was how a referendum could be held in war-ravaged Syria, where large parts of the country remain contested or under rebel control.
Nigeria lawmakers pass gay marriage ban
Abuja, Nigeria – Nigeria’s House of Representatives voted Thursday to ban gay marriage and outlaw any groups actively supporting gay rights, endorsing a measure that also calls for 10-year prison sentences for any “public show” of affection by a same-sex couple.
Representatives approved the proposal in a voice vote, sending it immediately to President Goodluck Jonathan. It wasn’t immediately clear if Jonathan would sign the measure, though gays and lesbians already face public ridicule and possible prison sentences in Nigeria.
While Western diplomats declined to immediately comment, the United Kingdom already has threatened to stop aid to nations that discriminate against gays. But those threats appear unlikely to assuage the desire of Nigerian authorities to further criminalize homosexuality, part of a wave of such laws in African nations eager to legislate against what they believe is a challenge of their traditional values by the West.
Under the proposed law, Nigeria would ban any same-sex marriage from being conducted in either a church or a mosque. Gay or lesbian couples who marry could face up to 14 years each in prison. Witnesses or anyone who helps couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Anyone taking part in a group advocating for gay rights or anyone caught in a “public show” of affection also would face 10 years in prison.