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U.S. military sends training ship

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Lagos, Nigeria The U.S. military said Wednesday it sent a ship to Africa’s oil-rich Gulf of Guinea to train west African nations to combat threats including terrorism, drug trafficking and petroleum theft.

The Coast Guard cutter USCG Bear, which is attached to the U.S. Sixth Fleet based in Italy, arrived last week with 100 sailors on board and will be in the Gulf of Guinea for about one month, said a U.S. military spokesman.

The United States has been stepping up its military cooperation with politically unstable statesw in the area, particularly regional heavyweight Nigeria, over the past few years. The Gulf of Guinea holds as much as 10 percent of world oil reserves.

Restrictions eased for rape victim

Islamabad, Pakistan Pakistan’s president said Wednesday he had lifted a ban on travel abroad for the victim in a high-profile rape case, a restriction that was strongly condemned by Washington.

The statement by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf came one day after Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned the acquittals of 13 men and ordered their re-arrest in the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, whose plight has cast a glaring light on the treatment of women in this conservative Muslim nation.

Mai, 33, was allegedly ordered raped in 2002 by a council of elders in Meerwala, her home village in eastern Punjab province, as punishment for her 13-year-old brother’s alleged affair with a woman from a higher caste family. Mai and her family deny any affair ever took place and say the brother was in fact sexually assaulted by members of the other family.

John Paul statue unveiled in Cuba

Havana Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega unveiled a statue of the late Pope John Paul II in the eastern city of Holguin, Roman Catholic Church officials said Wednesday.

The bronze piece, installed in the San Isidro cathedral, is the first to be dedicated to John Paul in Cuba, said the Rev. Jose Felix, secretary of the island’s Episcopal Conference.

John Paul made a historic visit to communist Cuba in 1998. He called for more religious and political opening on the island, but also criticized a U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

Cuba never broke ties with the Vatican, even when the island was officially atheist after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. The government removed references to atheism in the constitution in 1991 and allowed religious believers to join the Communist Party.

Stamps issued on heels of racial uproar

Mexico City The Mexican government has issued postage stamps depicting an exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin, just weeks after remarks by President Vicente Fox angered U.S. blacks.

The series of five stamps released Wednesday depicts a hapless boy drawn with exaggerated features, thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book, which started in the 1940s and is still published in Mexico.

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