DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

Blogger receives 50 lashes for criticizing powerful clerics

A Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jiddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators, a witness to the lashing said.

The witness said Raif Badawi’s feet and hands were shackled during the flogging but his face was visible. He remained silent and did not cry out, said the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal. Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. London-based Amnesty International said he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks.

GALESBURG, Mich.

More than 100 vehicles involved in deadly pileups

More than 100 vehicles were involved in pileups on a snowy Michigan interstate on Friday, killing a trucker and igniting a fire and explosion on a semi carrying fireworks, police said.

Snow, wind and poor visibility were blamed for the chain reaction of crashes on both sides of Interstate 94 in Kalamazoo County, 150 miles east of Chicago. The interstate wasn’t expected to reopen until late Friday or Saturday.

“As you can imagine, it’s not easy to count vehicles as they pile up,” said Michigan State Police Lt. Rick Pazder, who pegged the number at 123.

Police urged everyone within a 3-mile radius to evacuate the rural area, but that order was lifted by early afternoon once all hazardous materials on the trucks had burned off.

– From news service reports