Billboards to help find kids
The government plans to set up electronic billboards to help find missing and abducted children in a nation where violence against children is a growing concern. The Office of the Children’s Registry said on Friday that billboards will be installed in the upcoming months in cities including Kingston, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Spanish Town. There are currently more than 1,100 missing children in the island of about 2.6 million inhabitants. UNICEF last month said it was extremely concerned about what it described as “unrelenting violence” against youngsters in the country, citing the 40 children killed there last year.
Court extends phone spying
A secret court has renewed the government’s authority to carry out a controversial telephone surveillance program exposed by fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden. The panel’s decision, made public on Friday in an unprecedented move, extends the program, which affects millions of Americans, by three months, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, sparked outrage early last month when he divulged to The Guardian that Washington was collecting phone records of millions of customers of carrier Verizon under a secret court order.
Jail told to let Muslims pray
A federal judge has given the government 30 days to start allowing US Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh and other Muslim inmates to hold ritual group prayers outside their cells in a high-security prison in Indiana. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on Friday said the Bureau of Prisons might have misconstrued her Jan. 11 ruling granting Lindh’s request to pray in groups at the prison at Terre Haute. Officials are allowing only two Muslims to pray together in a cell. The judge clarified her order by saying the prison is to allow Muslims to pray together outside their cells at any Islamic prayer time that comes when other prisoners are allowed out in groups.
FARC hostage a tourist: US
A former US Marine who the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) says it “captured” a month ago in a turbulent southeastern region is a tourist, not a member of the US mission in the country and should be released immediately, US Ambassador Michael McKinley said on Saturday. A police general said Kevin Scott Sutay, 26, entered a hot zone despite warnings. The rebel group offered to free Sutay as a good-faith gesture after announcing on its Web site on Friday night that he was in their custody. The FARC said Sutay had described himself as a veteran of the Afghanistan war who left the US armed forces in March. The group did not say how it came to have Sutay, but suggested he was “a mercenary.”
Hundreds protest gay rights
More than 1,000 people participated on Friday in a rare street demonstration to protest homosexuality and a proposal to legalize gay marriage. The protest brought together a mix of religious groups, from Protestant to Muslim, who carried anti-gay placards and chanted songs, including one in which they threatened to burn down parliament if its members make same-sex marriage legal. A gay rights group has said it plans to submit a proposal allowing homosexuals to wed. The demonstration came two days after watchdog groups held a news conference to condemn an increase in threats against homosexuals.