(World Scene  and News Briefs from WashingtonTimes.com, from wire dispatches and Washington Times staff reports)

VENEZUELA – Anti-Chavez TV owner arrested

CARACAS | The owner of Venezuela’s only remaining TV channel that takes a critical line against President Hugo Chavez was arrested Thursday, raising concerns the government is carrying out a widening crackdown aimed at silencing opponents.

Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of Globovision, was arrested on a warrant for remarks that were deemed “offensive” to the president, Attorney General Luisa Ortega said.

Mr. Zuloaga said military intelligence agents detained him at an airport in the northwestern state of Falcon as he was preparing to fly on his private plane with his wife to the Caribbean island of Bonaire, where they planned to vacation.

IRELAND – Pubs to open on Good Friday

DUBLIN | As long as Ireland has had pubs, Good Friday has been off-limits as a “dry” holy day – until now.

A Limerick judge ruled Thursday that the city’s 110 pubs can open April 2 because the city is hosting a major Irish rugby match attracting tens of thousands of visitors. This will be the first time in the history of the Republic of Ireland that pubs anywhere in the country will open on Good Friday.

Such a judgment would have been unthinkable in the Ireland of old, where the Catholic Church enjoyed unquestioned authority from the public and deference from the government (many of whom are Catholic themselves and follow church teachings). Commentators were quick to suggest that Thursday’s judgment represented a watershed in the shifting relations between church and state in this rapidly secularizing land.

The pubs argued that keeping pubs shut for the match between hometown favorites Munster versus Dublin-based rivals Leinster would represent an economic sin in Limerick, a city suffering from high unemployment.

FRANCE – Twitter hacker: Didn’t mean harm

PARIS | He’s unemployed and isn’t much of a computer expert. The Frenchman accused of infiltrating Twitter and peeping at the accounts of President Obama and singers Britney Spears and Lily Allen says he wanted to reveal just how vulnerable online-data systems are to break-ins – and he says he didn’t mean any harm.

“I’m a nice hacker,” suspect Francois Cousteix told France 3 television Thursday, a day after he was released from police questioning, adding that his goal was to warn Internet users about data security.

“Hacker Croll,” as he was known online, is accused of breaking into Twitter administrators’ accounts and copying confidential data – as well as peeping at Mr. Obama’s and the singers’ accounts, though he didn’t have access to sensitive information about them, a French prosecutor said.

COLOMBIA – FARC releases captive soldier

VILLAVICENCIO | Colombian rebels handed over a 23-year-old soldier to the International Red Cross on Sunday in their first release of a captive in more than a year.

Pvt. Josue Calvo had been held since last April. He walked out of a loaned Brazilian helicopter emblazoned with the Red Cross logo and into the long embrace of his father and sister after being picked up in the jungle and flown to this provincial capital at the eastern foot of the Andes.

Although the rebels had reported him suffering from an undisclosed illness and not ambulatory, Pvt. Calvo did not use the wheelchair that awaited him. He walked on his own, with the aid of a staff, and did not speak – only giving a thumbs up – at a later news conference.

Pvt. Calvo is the first of two soldiers the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, says it is freeing this week in what the insurgents call their last good-will unilateral release. The other is Sgt. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, who has been held for more than 12 of his 32 years and whose father gained fame for walking halfway across Colombia to press for his release.

MONGOLIA – Harsh winter decimates livestock

BEIJING | A severe winter has left an estimated 4.5 million dead animals in stockyards across the Mongolian steppes, and many poor herders face the loss of all their property just before the important breeding season.

About one-tenth of Mongolia’s livestock may have perished, as deep snows cut off access to grazing and fodder. The damage to the rural economy could increase demands on Mongolia’s already stretched national budget, which relies on mining revenues to meet spending commitments.

The Red Cross launched an emergency appeal for 1 million Swiss francs to assist Mongolian herders, after it estimated that 4.5 million livestock have died in the country since December.

NOTE: The news blurbs above are from World Scene published at WashingtonTimes.com on Monday, March 29, 2010 and Briefly published at WashingtonTimes.com on Friday, March 26, 2010.

Copyright 2009 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  For educational purposes only.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.


1. For each of the 5 countries, give the following information:
a) the continent on which it is located
b) the name of the capital city
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different)
e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country: type of government, capital and executive branch (chief of state/head of government) can be found under the “Government” heading; population is listed under the “People” heading.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

2. For Venezuela:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) For what reason was Mr. Zuloaga arrested?
c) What would you say to people who defend President Chavez from the accusation that he is stifling free speech in Venezuela?
NOTE: For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled by generally benevolent military strongmen, who promoted the oil industry and allowed for some social reforms. Democratically elected governments have [ruled] since 1959. Hugo Chavez, president since 1999, has promoted a controversial policy of “democratic socialism,” which purports to alleviate social ills while at the same time attacking globalization and undermining regional stability. (from the CIA World FactBook)

3. For Ireland:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Who celebrates Good Friday? What is its significance?
c) For what reason did the judge rule in the pubs’ favor?
d) Ask a parent, and also a grandparent, if stores, bars, restaurants were open on Good Friday when they were kids? And were stores open on Easter?

4. For France:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What did Mr. Cousteix say his motive was for hacking Twitter accounts?
c) Mr. Cousteix is not a computer expert but was able to hack into Twitter accounts. How safe do you think your personal information is online?

5. For Colombia:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What do you learn about the second prisoner who FARC says they will release this week?
Facts about FARC:
–FARC is a guerrilla organization, self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist. The FARC is considered a terrorist group by the Colombian government, the United States, Canada, the Latin American Parliament, and the European Union. (from wikipedia.org)
–The FARC continues to wage a war of words devoted to Marxist principles, despite the fact that many of its battles are fought with the less idealistic motive of controlling the illicit drug industry. (from tkb.org)
–FARC is responsible for most of the ransom kidnappings in Colombia; the group targets wealthy landowners, foreign tourists, and prominent international and domestic officials. FARC stepped up terrorist activities against infrastructure in cities before Colombia’s May 2002 presidential election. (from cfr.org)

6. For Mongolia:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why are herders facing this problem?

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