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New Signs of Mugabe Crackdown in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s government staged separate police raids on Thursday against the main opposition party, foreign journalists and at least one democracy advocate, raising the specter of a broad crackdown aimed at keeping the country’s imperiled leaders in power.

With the government facing election results that threaten its 28-year reign, security officers raided the Miekles Hotel in central Harare on Thursday afternoon, searching rooms that the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, had rented for election operations, said Tendai Biti, the party’s general secretary.

A second group of riot officers sealed off the York Lodge, a small hotel in suburban Harare frequented by foreign journalists, at about the same time. A lodge worker who refused to be identified said six people were detained, including Barry Bearak, a correspondent for The New York Times. The identities of the other journalists could not be identified, but Bearak was later located in a Harare jail.

FAA Ignored Southwest Violations, Inspectors Testify

The Federal Aviation Administration may know considerably less about the state of airline safety than it claims, a parade of witnesses and lawmakers said at a congressional hearing on Thursday.

Three long-time Federal Aviation Administration inspectors testified that their agency allowed Southwest Airlines to fly uninspected planes, and that the airline continued to fly the planes even after it later found cracks in some of them.

The inspectors said that when they complained, their bosses threatened their jobs and discouraged them from pursuing safety problems.

One was removed from his job as an office manager and another was encouraged to apply for a transfer. A third, Charalambe Boutris, was temporarily removed from his role overseeing Southwest after complaints from the airline.

Beyond the problems at Southwest, the hearing focused more broadly on the quality of the government’s oversight. Southwest and other airlines have suspended hundreds of flights in recent weeks, seriously disrupting travel, while undertaking inspections that critics say were long overdue.

Pope Adds Meetings With Jewish Leaders to U.S. Itinerary

At 80, Pope Benedict XVI has limited his coming trip to the United States to 13 public events, but the church made a surprise announcement on Thursday that he had added two brief meetings both with Jewish leaders.

One is a quick stopover at the Park East Synagogue in New York on April 18. It will be the first time a pope has ever visited a synagogue in the United States, and only the third visit by a pope to any synagogue.

The other is scheduled for the previous day, immediately after Benedict holds a major meeting in the rotunda of the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington with about 150 leaders representing a variety of faiths.

About 50 Jewish attendees from that event will then be ushered into the nearby Polish Heritage Room, where the pope will offer greetings for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins two days later, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.