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TENSIONS APPEAR TO HAVE EASEDIN PAKISTAN

islamabad, pakistan

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani softened his criticism of senior generals Wednesday in an apparent thaw between Pakistan's sparring civilian and military elites, saying the country could not afford further friction between its most powerful institutions. "I want to dispel the impression that the military leadership acted unconstitutionally or violated rules," Gilani said. The remarks came less than 24 hours after Gilani met at his home with the country's military and spy chiefs and offered a strong indication that tensions may be dissipating. Two weeks ago, Pakistan was gripped by rumors of an impending coup.

giglio, italy

Captain: Course change ordered

New evidence emerged Wednesday suggesting the captain of the Costa Concordia was repeatedly ordered by superiors to deviate from course Jan. 13 and head toward picturesque Giglio Island, where it crashed and partly sank. In leaked telephone transcripts of the captain's conversations with an unidentified official from Costa Cruises, the ship's operator, recorded while the captain was in police custody after escaping the shipwreck, he is heard saying Costa managers insisted on the changed course. Capt. Francesco Schettino's claims have been challenged by Costa Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp. Evidence supporting either account could have an important bearing on legal actions over the shipwreck and chaotic evacuation that left at least 16 people dead and 19 unaccounted for.

london

Paper's execs were aware of hacking

The editor of the Times of London has said managers at the paper knew as far back as 2009 that one of their reporters had tried to intercept emails to reveal the identity of the detective behind the award-winning NightJack blog. James Harding's acknowledgement in a letter made public Wednesday that senior journalists at the Rupert Murdoch-owned publication knew of the hacking is potentially damaging for the venerable Times. Revelations of illegal phone hacking and police bribery at Murdoch's News of the World led to the tabloid's closure in July and the resignation of senior executives.

seattle

Alaska Airlines drops prayer cards

Alaska Airlines is ending decades of giving passengers prayer cards with their meals, saying Wednesday the decision was made out of respect for all passengers. Airline spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the airline heard from customers who preferred not to mix religion with transportation. "Some customers were comforted by the cards and some didn't feel religion was appropriate on the plane," she said. The cards offer a short except of a psalm printed on a beautiful photograph. Since the airline stopped offering meals to customers in the main cabin in 2006, the cards have appeared only on meal trays in first class.

minneapolis

Rep. Bachmann to seek fourth term

Less than a month after ending her presidential bid, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said Wednesday that she will seek a fourth term in Congress. "I'm looking forward to coming back and bringing a strong, powerful voice to Washington, D.C.," Bachmann told the Associated Press.

Times wires

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