WORLD: Top US envoy seeks help with Korean crisis

Top US envoy seeks help with Korean crisis

BEIJING — A top U.S. envoy had ‘‘useful’’ talks with Chinese officials Thursday on easing the threat of war on the Korean peninsula, hoping to gain insights about a senior Chinese official’s recent meeting with North Korea’s absolute leader, Kim Jong Il.

Stephen Bosworth met with Wang Jiarui, who heads the Communist Party’s international affairs office, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and other officials. He was to travel to Japan later Thursday.

‘‘Ambassador Bosworth and Chinese counterparts had useful consultations on how to coordinate moving forward in dealing with North Korea,’’ a U.S. Embassy statement said.

Witches curse Romanian tax

CHITILA, Romania — Everyone curses the tax man, but Romanian witches angry about having to pay up for the first time hurled poisonous mandrake into the Danube River on Thursday to cast spells on the president and government.

Romania’s newest taxpayers also included fortune tellers — but they probably should have seen it coming.

Superstitions are no laughing matter in Romania — the land of the medieval ruler who inspired the ‘‘Dracula’’ tale — and have been part of its culture for centuries. President Traian Basescu and his aides have been known to wear purple on certain days, supposedly to ward off evil.

A witch at the Danube named Alisia called the new tax law ‘‘foolish.’’

Egypt marks mournful mass

CAIRO — Egypt’s Christians packed churches Thursday for mournful Christmas Eve Masses, weeping and donning black in place of colorful holiday clothes, under a heavy security cordon by police out of fear of another attack like the New Year’s suicide bombing of a church that killed 21 people.

At church gates around the country, police and church staff checked the IDs of those entering the services — and their wrists, where many Egyptian Christians bear the tattoo of a cross.

Al-Qaida in Iraq had threatened Christians in Iraq and Egypt in the weeks leading up to the holidays and Saturday’s deadly bombing. Militant websites have even posted names and addresses of churches in Egypt to target, raising fears of a follow-up attack on celebrations.