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North Korea Charges U.S. Citizen

Pyongyang, North Korea (ap) — North Korea announced yesterday that an American detained for nearly six months is being tried in the Supreme Court on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, a crime that could draw the death penalty if he is convicted.

The case involving Kenneth Bae, who has been in North Korean custody since early November, further complicates already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington following weeks of heightened rhetoric and tensions.

The trial mirrors a similar situation in 2009, when the U.S. and North Korea were locked in a standoff over Pyongyang’s decision to launch a long-range rocket and conduct an underground nuclear test. At the time, North Korea had custody of two American journalists, whose eventual release after being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor paved the way for diplomacy following months of tensions.

Bae was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea’s far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, according to official state media. In North Korean dispatches, Bae, a Korean American, is called Pae Jun Ho, the North Korean spelling of his Korean name.

The exact nature of his alleged crimes has not been revealed, but North Korea accuses Bae, described as a tour operator, of seeking to overthrow North Korea’s leadership.

NATO: 4 Service Members Killed
In Plane Crash

Kabul, Afghanistan (ap)— A plane crashed in southern Afghanistan yesterday, killing four international service members, NATO said.

Initial reporting indicated there was no enemy activity in the area at the time, but coalition personnel secured the site and the cause of the crash was being investigated, NATO said.

The brief statement did not identify the nationalities of the victims, or say where the plane went down.

However, Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, deputy governor of the southern province of Zabul, said an aircraft belonging to foreign forces crashed yesterday afternoon in Shah Joy district. He said the site had been surrounded by international forces.

Italy forms new government

Rome (ap) — Center-left leader Enrico Letta forged a new Italian government yesterday in a coalition with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s conservatives, an unusual alliance of bitter rivals that broke a two-month political stalemate from inconclusive elections in the recession-mired country.

The daunting achievement was pulled off by Letta, who will be sworn in as premier along with the new Cabinet at the presidential Quirinal Palace on Sunday.

Letta, 46, is a moderate with a reputation as a political bridge-builder. He is also the nephew Berlusconi’s longtime adviser, Gianni Letta, a relationship seen as smoothing over often nasty interaction between the two main coalition partners.

Serving as deputy premier and interior minister will be Berlusconi’s top political aide, Angelino Alfano. He is a former justice minister who was the architect of legislation that critics say was tailor-made to help media mogul Berlusconi in his many judicial woes.

Supreme Court Justice Breyer Breaks Shoulder in Bike Crash

Washington (tribune) — Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer broke his shoulder in a fall from his bicycle and underwent surgery yesterday morning, according to a court spokeswoman.

The 74-year-old justice was resting comfortably and is expected to be released from Georgetown University Hospital early in the week.

Breyer was riding his bike Friday afternoon near the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, next to the Lincoln Memorial, when he took a fall, according to the statement. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Staff on Strike at 7 Prisons
In Western Canada

Edmonton, Alberta — Employees at seven prisons Canada’s Alberta province have walked off the job to protest the suspension of one of their colleague who complained about safety issues.

The Alberta labor board ruled yesterday that the strike is illegal for two of the detention centers and ordered those workers to return to their posts, said Bill Dechant, a spokesman for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents jail guards. Dechant said the union will ask its members if they want to comply with the order.

It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen at the other facilities involved in the strike.

Woman, 80, Swallows Diamond
At Fla. Charity Event

Tampa, Fla. (ap) — The idea behind the Tampa Women’s Club charity event was simple. For $20, you could buy a flute of champagne and a chance to win a one-carat, $5,000 diamond.

Organizers of the April 20 event placed $10 cubic zirconia stones in the bottom of 399 of the 400 champagne glasses. The prized diamond, donated by Continental Wholesale Diamonds, was placed in the last.

The problem? Eighty-year-old Miriam Tucker accidentally swallowed it.

Tucker told local news media that she didn’t want to put her finger in the champagne, so she drank a bit. While laughing with women at the table, she realized she swallowed it. Embarrassed, she had to tell jewelers who were frantically searching for the winner.

Already scheduled for a colonoscopy on April 22, she had a doctor recover the jewel.