Prince Charles makes surprise visit to troops

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan — Britain’s Prince Charles made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday, stopping in the Taliban-infested province where his younger son, Harry, served for 10 weeks until his secret deployment was leaked to the media.

Charles, wearing military fatigues, recalled how much he worried about Harry when he was in Helmand province and sympathized with the families of other British soldiers serving in the country.

“For the families, I know when my youngest son was out here, as a parent you worry the whole time,” Charles told reporters after laying a wreath of paper poppies and white carnations for the fallen at the largest British base in Helmand.

The 61-year-old heir to the British throne said troops can keep themselves busy in the field, but for the relatives left behind, it’s “ghastly.”

Britain has lost 276 troops since the war began in 2001, second only to the United States. British soldiers have mainly been tasked with battling the Taliban in Helmand, the center of Afghanistan’s illegal narcotics trade that has financed the militant group.

Harry participated in that battle in 2007 and 2008, calling in airstrikes and setting off on foot patrols from an isolated outpost near the war-ravaged village of Garmsir, some 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of the former Taliban capital of Kandahar.

The prince’s secret tour of duty was abruptly aborted after a magazine and Web sites disclosed details of his whereabouts.

More recently, British troops participated in a major operation to retake the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Helmand — the largest offensive since the U.S. and NATO committed an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan at the end of 2009.

Charles expressed his support for British troops during his one-day visit, which also took him to the capital, Kabul. The soldiers were equally supportive of his decision to come to the country.

“I think it is good for the guys who have been on the ground for a full six months,” said Sgt. Maj. Guy Harris of the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. “It’s good that they know there are people who are interested in what they are doing. It is like the welfare parcels they get from back home.”

Ebert may be coming back

CHICAGO — Roger Ebert says he and his wife are going ahead with plans to produce a new movie review television program with the working title “Roger Ebert presents At the Movies.”

The famous movie reviewer wrote Thursday on his Chicago Sun-Times blog that he can’t give details, but they’re “deeply involved” in talks. Ebert says they’ve held video tests with potential hosts and they know who they will use. He says the new show would have a strong presence online.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning reviewer writes that he would like to make “occasional appearances” on the air. Ebert lost his ability to speak after cancer surgery.

Ebert also writes: “the Thumbs will return,” referring to the well-known “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” reviews.

Former Idol revs it way up

SEATTLE — The Washington State Patrol says former “American Idol” star Sanjaya Malakar was caught speeding 110 mph on Interstate 405 outside of Seattle at Kirkland.

He was stopped about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday and given a $411 ticket.

Trooper Dan MacDonald told The Seattle Times there was no one else on the freeway at the time so Malakar does not face a reckless endangerment charge.

The 20-year-old singer from Federal Way gained fame four years ago on the “American Idol” talent show.

Music producer of KC fame admits to sex with boys

NEWARK, Ohio — A music producer and co-founder of KC and the Sunshine Band responsible for such hits as “Shake Your Booty” and “Keep It Comin’ Love” has acknowledged having sex with teenage boys, police said Wednesday.

Richard R. Finch, 56, was arrested Tuesday after a boy told authorities he’d had sexual contact with him at Finch’s home in Newark, the Licking County sheriff’s office said. The boy made the revelation last week.

Finch, while being interviewed at the sheriff’s office, admitted he’d had sex with that boy and others ranging in age from 13 to 17, police said.

Finch, a former bass player for the band and a seven-time Grammy Award winner, was being held Wednesday at the sheriff’s office.