Chatter: Prison break, the Pakistan edition




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Pakistan's big prison break. Some 250 inmates are enjoying an early — and wholly unauthorized — release after gunmen stormed a jail in northwest Pakistan. The assault on the Dera Ismail Khan prison began last night with a series of huge explosions, followed by a three-hour gun and grenade battle during which at least 12 people were killed. 

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the raid, which appears to been aimed at freeing the scores of militant Islamists locked (supposedly) within the jail. Around 30 militants were among the escapees, local authorities say. Where are they and their liberators now? "Melted away," one official admitted. What's scarier is the chance that they won't stay hidden for long.

Morsi lives. And reads newspapers, and watches TV, and receives foreign diplomats. The European Union's top envoy, Catherine Ashton, met Egypt's deposed president at an undisclosed location yesterday for two hours of "in-depth" discussions. As far as we know, it's the first time Mohamed Morsi has had contact with the outside world since the military removed him from power almost four weeks ago.

That said, he has been allowed access to news reports and is aware of what's been happening in Egypt for the past month, Ashton said — including, presumably, the deaths of dozens of people demanding his reinstatement and the charges filed against him and other senior Muslim Brotherhood figures. What he thinks of all that, however, we still don't know: Ashton declined to represent his views or anyone else's. We can hazard a guess, though.


WikiLeaker judged. Bradley Manning, the US Army private who funneled reams of secret documents to the WikiLeaks website, is due to learn his fate today. The 25-year-old, who has spent the past three years in military prison cells, was court martialled on 22 counts, including theft and aiding the enemy.

Manning pleaded guilty to 10 charges but has persistently denied the most serious. If the judge disagrees when she delivers her verdict this afternoon, he's looking at the prospect of life behind bars.

Gay is OK. Welcome to the right(er) side of history, Pope Francis, who topped off his epic visit to Brazil yesterday with the most conciliatory remarks about homosexuality of any pontiff to date.

"Who am I to judge?" the Pope pondered in response to a reporter's question about gay priests. Who, indeed. But before anyone thinks about wearing rainbow stripes to Mass, remember: while Francis may not think homosexual orientation is a sin, homosexual acts, he and the rest of the Catholic Church maintain, are.  


Fifty Shades of stuck. London firefighters say they've noticed a marked uptick in the number of calls they receive from people who need help freeing themselves from handcuffs and "other items." Emergency calls relating to a trapped body part — it's early, so we won't specify who got what stuck in a vacuum cleaner — have increased by 10 percent since 2010, according to their records.

"I don't know whether it's the 'Fifty Shades' effect, but the number of incidents involving items like handcuffs seems to have gone up," remarked a bemused fire brigade spokesman. And that tends to get in the way of, you know, fighting fires and such. He advises the curious Londoner to use "a little common sense." And a spare key, perhaps.