In Brief | Nation & World 6-24-13


Thousands of Calgary residents allowed to return home

CALGARY, Alberta — About 65,000 residents of Calgary were being allowed to return to their homes Sunday to assess the damage from flooding that has left Alberta’s largest city awash in debris and dirty water.

Some were returning to properties spared by flooding, but others were facing extensive repairs to homes and businesses.

About 75,000 people had to leave at the height of the crisis as the Elbow and Bow rivers surged over their banks Thursday night. Three bodies have been recovered since the flooding began in southern Alberta and a fourth person was still missing.

People in the eastern part of the province headed for higher ground as the flood threat remained. In Medicine Hat, Alberta, thousands of people have left their homes as water levels rose on the South Saskatchewan River. The river was not expected to crest until Monday, but by Sunday morning it was lapping over its banks in low-lying areas and people were busy laying down thousands of sandbags.

Anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in critical condition

JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela’s health has deteriorated and he is now in critical condition, the South African government said Sunday.

The office of President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he had visited the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader at a hospital Sunday evening and was informed by the medical team that Mandela’s condition had become critical in the past 24 hours.

“The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands,” Zuma said in the statement, using Mandela’s clan name.

Zuma also met Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife, at the hospital in Pretoria and discussed the former leader’s condition, according to the statement. Zuma was accompanied on the visit by Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress.

Mandela was jailed for 27 years under white racist rule and released in 1990. He then played a leading role in steering the divided country from the apartheid era to democracy, becoming South Africa’s first black president in all-race elections in 1994. He was hospitalized on June 8 for what the government said was a recurring lung infection.

10 tourists, local guide killed at Pakistan camp

ISLAMABAD — Islamic militants disguised as policemen killed 10 foreign climbers and a Pakistani guide in a brazen overnight raid against their campsite at the base of one of the world’s tallest mountains in northern Pakistan, officials said Sunday.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, saying it was to avenge the death of their deputy leader in a U.S. drone strike last month.

The attack took place in an area that has largely been peaceful, hundreds miles from the Taliban’s major sanctuaries along the Afghan border. But the militant group, which has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years, has shown it has the ability to strike almost anywhere in the country.

The Taliban began their attack by abducting two local guides to take them to the remote base camp in Gilgit-Baltisan, said Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. One of the guides was killed in the shooting, and the other has been detained for questioning. The attackers disguised themselves by wearing uniforms used by the Gilgit Scounts, a paramilitary force that patrols the area, Khan said.

Around 15 gunmen attacked the camp at around 11 p.m. Saturday, said the Alpine Club of Pakistan, which spoke with a local guide, Sawal Faqir, who survived the shooting.

Hatred between Sunnis, Shiites becoming more virulent

CAIRO — It’s not hard to find stereotypes, caricatures and outright bigotry when talk in the Middle East turns to the tensions between Islam’s two main sects.

Shiites are described as devious, power-hungry corruptors of Islam. Sunnis are called extremist, intolerant oppressors.

Hatreds between the two are now more virulent than ever in the Arab world because of Syria’s civil war. On Sunday, officials said four Shiites in a village west of Cairo were beaten to death by Sunnis in a sectarian clash unusual for Egypt.

Hard-line clerics and politicians on both sides in the region have added fuel, depicting the fight as essentially a war of survival for their sect.

But among the public, views are complex. Some sincerely see the other side as wrong — whether on matters of faith or politics. Others see the divisions as purely political, created for cynical aims. Even some who view the other sect negatively fear sectarian flames are burning dangerously out of control. There are those who wish for a return to the days, only a decade or two ago, when the differences did not seem so important and the sects got along better, even intermarried.

Amid an overhaul, Girl Scouts cope with fiscal woes

NEW YORK — Given the friction and financial woes facing the Girl Scouts these days, perhaps it’s time for a giant friendship circle. Under that long-standing tradition, a ring of Scouts clasp hands and give a little squeeze, accompanied by a silent wish of good will.

Just a year after its centennial celebrations, the Girl Scouts of the USA finds itself in a different sort of squeeze. Its interconnected problems include declining membership and revenues, a dearth of volunteers, rifts between leadership and grassroots members, a pension plan with a $347 million deficit, and an uproar over efforts by many local councils to sell venerable summer camps.

The tangle of difficulties has prompted one congressman to request an inquiry by the House Ways and Means Committee into the pension liabilities and the sale of camps.

“I am worried that America’s Girl Scouts are now selling cookies to fund pension plans instead of camping,” wrote Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, in a letter last month to the committee chairman.

Compounding the problems are tensions at GSUSA headquarters in New York, where several senior executives have quit or been ousted since Anna Maria Chavez took over as CEO in 2011. Last week, some of the roughly 325 employees there were invited to take early retirement, and Chavez said an unspecified number of layoffs were expected in August to offset the revenue losses.

Zimmerman jurors

begin life in sequestration

SANFORD, Fla. — The six jurors and four alternates who will hear opening statements Monday in George Zimmerman’s murder trial are beginning their time together in a sequestered bubble: They won’t return to their homes for weeks, contact with family and friends will be limited, and Internet and phone usage is restricted.

Court officials are keeping mum about the details of the jury sequestration, which began this weekend. But if past cases are any example, the Zimmerman jurors won’t be able to tweet or blog. They’ll read only newspapers that have been censored of anything dealing with the case. They will do almost everything together as a group. In their hotel rooms, TV news channels will be inaccessible and landline telephones likely will be removed. Deputies will keep the jurors’ cellphones and give them back once a day so they can call loved ones and friends.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys say the sequestration is necessary to eliminate jurors’ exposure to outside influences as they consider whether the neighborhood watch volunteer committed murder last year when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. After spending almost two weeks picking a jury, the attorneys will make opening statements Monday.

“Your contact with the outside world will be severely limited,” prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda warned potential jurors last week.

Hostess Twinkies back

on U.S. store shelves in July

NEW YORK — Hostess Brands, the bakery company emerging from a second bankruptcy proceeding in four years, is preparing to resume selling its iconic snack cake, the Twinkie, nationwide in the U.S. on July 15.

The company, which filed for bankruptcy in January 2012 less than three years after emerging from a first filing, plans to revive its complete line of snack cakes, according to Hannah Arnold, a company spokeswoman.

Hostess is owned by Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., whose combined offer of as much as $410 million for company’s snack-cake enterprise was the only one submitted during the bankruptcy process in March. The spongy yellow cakes went out of production, prompting bidding wars for boxes on auction sites like eBay.

Other Hostess products include CupCakes, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos.

By wire sources