CUBA

U.S. in talks to win release of government contractor

The Obama administration is "currently engaged" in behind-the-scenes discussions to win the release of U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, jailed in Cuba for the last four years, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry, who engaged in another secret effort to free Gross in 2010, made the largely unnoticed remarks Tuesday at a news conference in NATO headquarters in Belgium, after he was asked about U.S. citizens detained in Cuba, Iran and North Korea.

"In the case of Mr. Gross, we've had any number of initiatives and outreaches over the last several years and engagement with a number of different individuals who have traveled to Cuba, met with people individually there and elsewhere," Kerry said.

"And we are currently engaged in some discussions regarding that, which I'm not at liberty to go into in any kind of detail," he added, declining further comment on a case that has become the key roadblock to improved U.S.-Cuba relations.

- El Nuevo Herald, Miami
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Deadly assault on capital

Wielding rifles and machetes, armed Christian fighters who support the Central African Republic's exiled president assaulted the capital at dawn on Thursday, leaving nearly 100 people dead. Shrouded bodies were lined up in a mosque as dozens of wounded lay on bloodstained hospital floors. The ambush on Muslim neighborhoods of Bangui came as the United Nations voted to send a contingent of French troops to try to stabilize the country, and French President Francois Hollande announced plans to double the force.

- AP
BRITAIN

Flooding, tidal surge feared

Britain braced for severe flooding and the worst tidal surge in 60 years after a powerful storm with hurricane-force gusts hit the country Thursday and began moving across Europe. The storm left tens of thousands of homes without electricity, and at least three people died in weather-related accidents. About 10,000 homes along the eastern coast were evacuated after the Environment Agency warned the country could face its worst tidal surge in 60 years. - AP