In brief | Nation & world | 022014


Taliban say they held indirect talks with US about possible prisoner exchange

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Washington has held indirect talks with the Taliban over the possible transfer of five senior Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a U.S. soldier captured nearly five years ago, a senior Taliban official told The Associated Press.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 27, of Hailey, Idaho, was last seen in a video released in December, footage seen as “proof of life” demanded by the United States. Bergdahl is believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the only U.S. soldier to be captured in America’s longest war, which began with the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for sheltering al-Qaida in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The talks, which the Taliban official said took place sometime over the past two months in a Middle East country, would be the first significant movement toward an exchange since it was last discussed by the U.S. and the Taliban in June 2013. That earlier initiative, along with the overall peace efforts, lost steam after Afghan President Hamid Karzai argued over the name of a Taliban political office that opened in the Gulf nation of Qatar. The office was eventually closed but several Taliban have remained behind in Qatar.

A U.S. official said the Americans are considering a prisoner exchange but would not comment on whether any new talks have taken place. The official, who has been closely involved with this issue and has knowledge of previous talks with the Taliban, refused to give more details.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf would not confirm the efforts.

Pa. couple who prayed for children in lieu of medicine sent to prison for 2nd child’s death

PHILADELPHIA — A couple who believed in faith-healing were sentenced Wednesday to 3½ to seven years in prison in the death of a second child who never saw a doctor despite being stricken with pneumonia.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible defied a court order to get medical care for their children after their 2-year-old son, Kent, died in 2009. Instead, they tried to comfort and pray over 8-month-old Brandon last year as he, too, died of treatable pneumonia.

“My religious beliefs are that you should pray, and not have to use medicine. But because it is against the law, then whatever sentence you give me, I will accept,” Catherine Schaible, 44, told the judge. She added that her beliefs have since changed.

The Schaibles are third-generation members of an insular Pentecostal community, the First Century Gospel Church in northeast Philadelphia, where they also taught at the church school. They have seven surviving children.

Brain on jazz: novel study puts pianists in MRI scanners to show music-language link

WASHINGTON — Jazz musicians are famous for their musical conversations — one improvises a few bars and another plays an answer. Now research shows some of the brain’s language regions enable that musical back-and-forth much like a spoken conversation.

It gives new meaning to the idea of music as a universal language.

The finding, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS One, is the latest in the growing field of musical neuroscience: Researchers are using how we play and hear music to illuminate different ways that the brain works.

And to Charles Limb, a saxophonist-turned-hearing specialist at Johns Hopkins University, the spontaneity that is a hallmark of jazz offered a rare chance to compare music and language.

“They appear to be talking to one another through their instruments,” Limb explained. “What happens when you have a musical conversation?”

By wire sources