Saudi woman's crime: Driving while female
Authorities detained a Saudi woman on Saturday after she launched a campaign against the driving ban for women in the ultraconservative kingdom and posted a video of herself behind the wheel on Facebook and YouTube to encourage others to copy her. Manal al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself," which urges authorities to lift the driving ban. She went on a test drive in the eastern city of Khobar and later posted a video of the experience. Human rights activist Walid Abou el-Kheir said Sherif was detained by the country's religious police, who are charged with ensuring the kingdom's rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings are observed. She was released several hours later.
German nuclear plants go offline
More than three-quarters of Germany's nuclear power plants were offline Saturday due to maintenance work or shutdowns ordered by the government after Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, utility companies said. Only four of the country's 17 nuclear power plants were online after the energy utility RWE AG took its Emsland plant off the grid Saturday. Environmentalists accused the utilities of staging simultaneous maintenance shutdowns while threatening blackouts to put pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, which appears determined in the wake of the Fukushima Dai-ichi catastrophe to phase out nuclear power within a decade.
Quake strikes in South Pacific
The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck today near a group of South Pacific islands. There were no reports of damage or risk of a tsunami. A statement by the agency said the quake struck 12 miles under the Kermadec Islands, a New Zealand group with no permanent population that lies 620 miles east of the city of Auckland. New Zealand, which sits above an area where two tectonic plates collide, has been shaken by a series of quakes and aftershocks since the city of Christchurch was devastated by a temblor on Feb. 22 that killed 181 people.
Spaniards defy ban on protests
Tens of thousands of demonstrators across Spain continued sit-ins and other protests against political parties on Saturday in defiance of a ban against such protests and ahead of regional and municipal elections today. About 28,000 people, most of them young, spent Friday night in Puerta del Sol, a main square in downtown Madrid, the police said. The demonstrators blame politicians for their hardships, including an unemployment rate of 21 percent. The elections are expected to punish the governing Socialists.