Afghan prison — The U.S. has reached an agreement with Afghanistan’s government to transfer the Parwan Detention Facility to Afghan control on Monday, the Pentagon said Saturday, two weeks after negotiations broke down over whether the U.S. would have the power to block the release of some detainees. A key element to the agreement is that the Afghans ensure that prisoners considered dangerous would not be released. The transfer is a critical move as the U.S. and allies move toward the full withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2014.
Mideast trip — President Barack Obama set aside the Middle East’s tricky politics Saturday to marvel at the beauty of one of the region’s most stunning sites, the fabled ancient city of Petra. Obama’s turn as tourist in Jordan capped a four-day visit that included stops in Israel and the West Bank. The White House set low policy expectations for the trip, and the president returns with few tangible achievements. Also Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry met Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but a return to peace talks did not appear to be a major agenda item.
China and Russia — President Xi Jinping made a case Saturday for closer economic and foreign policy cooperation with Russia, using a speech at a university in Moscow to argue that the countries have converging goals, including an expansion of the oil and gas trade, as they seek to offset the influence of the West. More than a half-century has passed since the communist ideological alliance between China and the Soviet Union collapsed in acrimony.
Colorado death — Colorado investigators on Saturday said for the first time that Evan Spencer Ebel, a member of the 211 white supremacist prison gang in Colorado and former prison inmate who was killed in a gunfight with Texas authorities, is a suspect in the death of Colorado’s state prison system chief, Tom Clements. A darkly ironic connection emerged Friday, when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper confirmed he was a longtime friend of Ebel’s father, attorney Jack Ebel.
Bloomberg’s gun ads — Determined to persuade Congress to act on the December rampage in Newtown, Conn., New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday will begin bankrolling a $12 million national advertising campaign that focuses on senators who he believes might be persuaded to support a pending package of federal regulations to curb gun violence. The ads, in a dozen states, will blanket those senators’ districts during an Easter congressional recess that is to be followed by debate over gun legislation.
Kidnapped for 15 months — An Australian held for 15 months by a kidnap-for-ransom group in the Philippines was released Saturday. Warren Richard Rodwell, 54, who worked as a teacher and travel writer, moved to join his Filipino wife and was abducted at his home in December 2011. The gunmen identified themselves as members of the Islamic militant organization Abu Sayyaf. It is unknown if a ransom was paid.
Spring snowstorm — An early spring storm forced the cancellation of more than 100 flights at Denver International Airport on Saturday. The storm is moving east, dumping more than a foot of snow.
Earth Hour — It’s something of a voluntary rolling blackout: More than 7,000 cities and towns across the planet went dark for an hour Saturday evening as part of an initiative called “Earth Hour,” to raise awareness of climate change.
Barbecue editor? — Daniel Vaughn, 35, has become a walking milestone in the history of Texas barbecue when Texas Monthly announced it had hired him to be its first barbecue editor, a position that exists at no other magazine in America. “It speaks to the extraordinary explosion and interest in barbecue,” said Jim Shahin, an associate professor of magazine journalism at Syracuse University — who also writes about barbecue for The Washington Post.
— From wire reports
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