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Red Sox at Center of Sarasota’s Local Economic Stimulus Plan

Officials trying to prop up the sagging economy here are convinced they have found a remedy: annexing a piece of Red Sox Nation.

Boston’s on-the-field success in recent years has made the organization a darling among fans and marketers. And the emerging power of the Red Sox name, fueled by frenetic fans who travel widely to see their team play, has created a level of interest from Sarasota sometimes seen from cities hoping to land the Olympics. Officials here are trying with all their civic might to poach the club’s spring training operation from Fort Myers, where it has been since 1993.

There have been friendly calls from local politicians to team executives, a pledge to build a replica of Boston’s Fenway Park, and discussions about both a public land purchase and an increase in the tourism tax to pay for the stadium and improvements to an existing minor league complex. A grass-roots organization called “Citizens for Sox” has even formed to help in the effort.

The officials here say the team would attract more tourists and businesses than any other major league franchise. They hope the relocation would help lift real estate prices, increase the number of flights to and from Boston and boost construction.

Swiss Release Frozen Assets Of Pakistan Party Leader

Switzerland has released millions of dollars in assets belonging to Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Swiss authorities said.

Zardari’s accounts were frozen in 1997 at the request of Pakistani authorities investigating allegations that Zardari had received kickbacks while he was a government official and Bhutto was prime minister.

In June, Pakistan’s attorney general notified the Swiss that he was no longer investigating Zardari, who leads the Pakistan People’s Party, one of the country’s largest political parties, and is expected to be chosen as president next week.

The attorney general wrote that neither Zardari nor Bhutto had done anything illegal, and that the charges had been politically motivated, the Swiss prosecutor general, Daniel Zappelli, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. As a result, the Swiss dropped a money-laundering case against Zardari and released his assets.

“For money laundering to be proven, you have to show it was the product of a crime, but we don’t have any evidence for a crime committed in Pakistan,” Zappelli said.

The value of the assets is about $60 million, said a Swiss official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the figure had not been disclosed publicly.

The Swiss action came as a shock to Daniel Devaud, the judge in Geneva who originally investigated the charges. He said it should not be interpreted as a sign of Zardari’s innocence.

Russia Sees New Realm Of Concern: Black Sea

Russian commanders said Wednesday they were growing alarmed at the number of NATO warships sailing into the Black Sea, conceding that NATO vessels now outnumbered the ships in their fleet anchored off the western coast of Georgia.

As attention turned to the balance of naval power in the sea, the leader of the separatist region of Abkhazia said he would invite Russia to establish a naval base at his territory’s deep-water port of Sukhumi.

And in a move certain to anger Russia, Ukraine’s president, Viktor A. Yushchenko, said he would open negotiations with authorities in Moscow to raise the rent on the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, which is in Ukraine’s predominantly Russian province of Crimea. The Untied States is pursuing a delicate policy of delivering humanitarian aid on military transport planes and ships, to illustrate to the Russians they do not fully control Georgia’s airspace or coastline.

The policy has left American and Russian naval vessels maneuvering in close proximity off the western coast of Georgia, with the Americans concentrated near the southern port of Batumi and the Russians around the central port of Poti. It has also left the Kremlin deeply suspicious of American motives.

Israelis in Anguish Over Abuse, Murder of 4-Year-Old

Israel is in the grip of a nightmarish tale of cross-generational infidelity, child abuse and murder. The story is blanketing the media, while police detectives speak of never having been so shaken by a case and an anguished nation is asking how it could happen here, in a society that considers itself especially caring and intimate.

The story centers on the killing of a blue-eyed, 4-year-old French girl named Rose, her guileless smile haunting the front page of every newspaper. Police say she was killed by her grandfather, a 45-year-old Israeli, who had lured her mother away from his own son, the dead girl’s father, to be his lover. They say the man has confessed to having stuffed the child’s body into a red suitcase and dumped it into a river. Divers are searching.

Those are the bare outlines but the details of familial dysfunction over many years, recounted by police and lawyers in press conferences, only add to the horror that has so gripped Israelis.

The grandfather, an unemployed taxi driver named Ronny Ron, was living with the girl’s mother, 23-year-old Marie Pisam. Together they have two daughters of their own.

Their relationship began four years ago when Marie and her husband, Benjamin, Ron’s biological son, came with the infant Rose from France to meet him.