Rallies against gun restrictions — Thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully Saturday at state capitals around the U.S. to rally against stricter limits on firearms, with demonstrators carrying rifles and pistols in some places while those elsewhere settled for waving hand-scrawled signs or screaming themselves hoarse. The size of crowds at each location varied — from dozens of people in South Dakota to 2,000 in New York. Large crowds also turned out in Connecticut, Tennessee and Texas; some demonstrators in the Oregon and Washington state capitals came with holstered handguns or rifles on their backs. Capitol rallies also took place in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin, among other states. Activists promoted the “Guns Across America" rallies primarily through social media.
Hollywood pushes back on ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ — The movie industry is pushing back against the Washington power players and others who have put the squeeze on “Zero Dark Thirty," the movie about the Osama bin Laden manhunt. Christopher Dodd, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America and former Democratic senator, raised a warning Friday for those who are calling for investigations into the film and its depictions of torture. “There could, in my view, be a chilling effect if, in the end of all this, you have a screenwriter or a director called before an investigating committee," Dodd said. Three U.S. senators publicly criticized the film and have asked that the CIA provide information about its contact with the filmmakers.
Whisky back on ice — Three bottles of rare, 19th-century Scotch found beneath the floor boards of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackelton’s abandoned expedition base were returned to the polar continent Saturday after a distiller flew them to Scotland to re-create the long-lost recipe. New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key personally returned the whisky to Antarctic Heritage Trust officials at a ceremony at New Zealand’s Antarctic base on Ross Island. The bottles will be transferred by March from Ross Island to the desolate hut at Cape Royds, where they had been forgotten for 102 years. Shackelton’s stash was discovered frozen in ice by conservationists in 2010; Antarctica’s minus-22-degree temperature was not enough to freeze the liquor. “I think we’re all tempted to crack it open and have a little drink ourselves now," Key said at the base.
Outreach in Syria? — Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, on state television Saturday invited the country’s rebels to lay down their weapons and take part in a national dialogue, saying everyone who participates will be included in a new Cabinet with wide executive powers. But the regime reacted with outrage Saturday to a petition from 58 countries asking that it be investigated for war crimes, even as evidence of new atrocities — 100 killed in a village on Tuesday — surfaced a day after the United Nations’ top human rights official called forcefully for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Report on Korean reunification — A report by U.S. Senate Republican staffers warns that China, because of its deepening economic ties with North Korea as well as its ancient claims on Korean land, could attempt to “conceivably block" an eventual unification between the two Koreas, if ever the Kim family falls from power in Pyongyang. The report was released last month with little fanfare, but North Korea watchers say it gives voice to an increasingly popular but sensitive sentiment: that China will ultimately try to prevent the South from absorbing the North. Such a situation is well down the road, experts say, but it resonates at a time when China is playing an aggressive role elsewhere in the region, staking claim to much of the South China Sea and to islands administered by Japan.
New file-sharing site — Indicted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom launched a new file-sharing website this weekend, promising users amped-up privacy levels in a defiant move against the U.S. prosecutors who accuse him of facilitating massive online piracy. He unveiled the “Mega" site ahead of a lavish gala at his New Zealand mansion tonight, the anniversary of his arrest on racketeering charges related to Megaupload, one of the most popular sites on the Web until U.S. prosecutors shut it down. U.S. authorities are trying to extradite the German-born Internet tycoon.
Corruption in Spain — Spain’s governing Popular Party was drawn deeper into a web of corruption scandals last week, after the Swiss authorities informed the Spanish judiciary that the party’s former treasurer had amassed as much as 22 million euros, or $29 million, in Swiss bank accounts. The treasurer, Luis Barcenas, resigned from his job in 2009 after being indicted in the early stages of a continuing investigation into a scheme of kickbacks and illegal payments said to involve other Popular Party politicians. Barcenas has said that he is innocent and that the Swiss accounts were held on behalf of investors. The Popular Party, too, denied any link to the money.
— From wire reports