Nation & World briefing

Taliban attacks wrong target — Taliban assailants apparently thought they were attacking an unprotected Christian-run day care center. But they mistakenly burst into the compound next door, where a U.S. government contractor’s employees were heavily armed and ready, according to accounts the contractor and the Afghan police gave Friday of a four-hour shootout in the capital, Kabul. While the gunbattle was underway, police were able to rescue two dozen foreigners next door, at what apparently had been the Taliban’s intended target, a Christian-run day care center that had no armed guards and normally left its front door open.

Missing plane — Objects spotted floating in a new search area for debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner need to be recovered and inspected before they can be linked to the plane, Australian officials said today. Eight planes were ready to comb the newly targeted area off the west coast of Australia after several objects were spotted Friday, including two rectangular items that were blue and gray, and ships on the scene will attempt to recover them, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said. “The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships,” the authority said in a statement.

U.S. and Syria — President Barack Obama reassured King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Friday that the United States remained committed to strengthening the moderate opposition in the Syrian civil war, administration officials said. But aides declined to reveal whether Obama and the king agreed to any significant expansion of the covert program to train and arm the Syrian opposition. Relations between the two countries have become strained in recent months, in part over Saudi frustration with the U.S. reluctance to provide arms that could end up in the hands of jihadi and extremists in Syria.

Venezuela crisis — The Vatican says it’s willing to help facilitate talks between Venezuela’s government and its opponents aimed at ending weeks of deadly unrest that have paralyzed much of the country. President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday said he was willing to sit down with the opposition under the watch of an outside observer. He floated the name of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who served as the Holy See’s ambassador to Venezuela before being called to Rome last year.

Michigan gay marriage — The federal government will recognize more than 300 same-sex marriages that were performed in Michigan last weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday, a day after Michigan’s governor said his state would not. Holder’s announcement caps a week of rapid change and uncertainty over the status of same-sex marriage in Michigan. On March 21, a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, and the next morning gay couples rushed to exchange vows. By late that afternoon, however, an appeals court stayed the judge’s ruling. While the appeals play out, the legal status of those unions has been uncertain.

Christie scandal — Republican Gov. Chris Christie has spent the past few days putting down traffic cones to separate himself from scandal. The usually garrulous governor and possible 2016 presidential contender had avoided news conferences and interviews for more than two months until Thursday, the day a report he commissioned cleared him of any involvement in the politically motivated plot to create huge traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge last year.