Iran leader steps into political fray, uncharted territory
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s supreme leader is supposed to be many things in the eyes of his followers: Spiritual mentor, protector of the Islamic Revolution, a moral compass above the regular fray.
Political referee is not among them.
Yet that is the unfamiliar role Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has adopted as the political mudslinging gets heavier ahead of elections in June to pick a successor for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Bad, wrong, inappropriate,” scolded Khamenei on Saturday in his most stinging rebuke of Ahmadinejad for his mounting attacks on rivals — including an ambush earlier this month in parliament when he played a barely audible videotape that purported to show corruption inside the family of the chamber’s speaker.
Pope thanks faithful in St. Peter’s Square
VATICAN CITY — His arms outstretched in a symbolic embrace, Pope Benedict XVI blessed tens of thousands of cheering people on Sunday in one of his last appearances as pontiff from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
Last week, 85-year-old Benedict shocked the world by announcing his resignation. He will step down on Feb. 28, planning to retreat to a life of prayer in a monastery behind the Vatican’s ancient walls.
The noontime appointment in the vast cobblestone square also served as a kind of trial run for how Rome will handle the logistics, including crowd security, as the city braces for faithful to flock to Rome for the election and installation of the cardinal who will succeed Benedict as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said upward of 100,000 people turned out Sunday and that everything went smoothly. But while there was still space in St. Peter’s Square for more, many couldn’t get in — or easily out — because entrances from the main boulevard were just too narrow.
Daughter of WWII soldier receives Purple Heart, Silver Star
LOS ANGELES — A Southern California woman who never knew her father has received his Purple Heart, Silver Star and other military medals he earned before he died in World War II.
Hyla Merin tearfully accepted eight medals earned by her father 2nd Lt. Hyman Markel on Sunday at her home in Thousand Oaks on Sunday.
Markel died while fighting German troops in Italy in 1945, before his daughter was born, and received the Purple Heart and Silver Star posthumously.
In October, the manager of a West Hollywood apartment building where Merin’s mother had lived in the 1960s found a box containing the Purple Heart.
The manager contacted a nonprofit organization that returns medals to vets or their families. The group found Merin and discovered several other medals she should have received.
Maker’s Mark to restore whiskey alcohol level
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After backlash from customers, the producer of Maker’s Mark bourbon is reversing a decision to cut the amount of alcohol in bottles of its famous whiskey.
Rob Samuels, Maker’s Mark’s chief operating officer, said Sunday that it is restoring the alcohol volume of its product to its historic level of 45 percent, or 90 proof. Last week, it said it was lowering the amount to 42 percent, or 84 proof, because of a supply shortage.
“We’ve been tremendously humbled over the last week or so,” Samuels, grandson of the brand’s founder, said of customers’ reactions.
The brand known for its square bottles sealed in red wax has struggled to keep up with demand. Distribution has been squeezed, and the brand had to curtail shipments to some overseas markets.
In a tweet Sunday, the company said to its followers: “You spoke. We listened.”
By wire sources