World briefs: Ebola spreads in West Africa

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GENEVA — Ebola continues to spread in Sierra Leone, Liberia and to a lesser extent in Guinea, with a combined 44 new cases and 21 deaths between July 6-8, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

This brought the total in West Africa's first outbreak of the deadly viral disease to 888 cases including 539 deaths since February, the United Nations agency said.

Just one confirmed new case had been reported during the past week in Guinea, where the WHO said it was closely monitoring the situation.

Ebola causes vomiting and diarrhea, impairs kidney and liver function and may cause internal and external bleeding. It kills up to 90 percent of those infected and is spread by close contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected people. There is no treatment or vaccine.

Earthquake hits Japan

TOKYO — A magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit off eastern Japan this morning, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, with a minor tsunami but no reports of damage along the northeast coast that was ravaged by the catastrophic March 2011 tsunami.

No irregularities were reported at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was damaged in the 2011 disaster in the worst nuclear accident since Ukraine's Chernobyl in 1986.

A meteorological agency official told a televised news conference that today’'s quake appeared to be an aftershock of the massive magnitude-9 earthquake of 2011.

India’s bureaucrats

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set his sights on getting work out of India’s famously inefficient bureaucrats, known as “babus.”

In the early days of his administration Mr. Modi summoned about 70 of the government’s top civil servants, gave them his personal cell phone number and e-mail address and said it was time for work.

A circular appeared the next day with what has been called Mr. Modi’s “11 Commandments” — orders to clean work spaces, shorten forms, weed out old files and review goals. Mr. Modi has even performed spot checks himself, and calling ministers on their land lines to see if they are at their desks.

India PM to visit U.S.

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation to meet President Barack Obama in Washington in September.

The Obama administration has been working to boost ties since Mr. Modi's thumping election victory, seeing India as an important counterweight to an increasingly assertive China and a prospective export market.

Vatican soccer duel?

ROME — Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, now pope emeritus, find themselves confronting an odd sort of schism: their two countries are competing in the finals of the World Cup on Sunday.

For many, this has raised the question of whether they will watch the game together. But the more basic question is whether Pope Francis, 77, of Argentina, and Pope Emeritus Benedict, 87, of Germany, will be watching at all, given that the match begins at 9 p.m. in Italy.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who has fielded soccer questions this week with a chuckling amusement, doubted the two men would watch the game together, or at all. He noted that Pope Emeritus Benedict, a scholarly theologian,, has never been much of a soccer fan. The first Latin American pope, Francis is unquestionably a fan, who as archbishop of Buenos Aires cheered for San Lorenzo, a local soccer club.


-- Compiled from wire reports


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