World briefs: 1/15/11
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WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration on Friday announced the most wide-ranging liberalization of travel and money-sending regulations to Cuba in over a decade, making it easier for American students and religious and cultural groups to visit the Communist-ruled island.
It will still not be possible for ordinary American tourists to vacation legally in Cuba, which has been under a U.S. economic embargo for 48 years. But members of educational, cultural and religious groups will be able to get licenses for travel more readily. In addition, the new regulations will permit Americans to provide money to Cuban churches and small businesses. Previously, such remittances could be sent only by Cuban Americans to their relatives.
The regulations would be similar to those put in place by the administration of President Bill Clinton and rolled back under President George W. Bush.
TERESOPOLIS, Brazil -- Grieving mudslide survivors carried the bodies of loved ones for hours down washed-out mountainsides on Friday as the death toll hit 514. They told of entire neighborhoods in a resort city destroyed and pleaded for food and water to reach those still isolated by Brazil's deadliest natural disaster in four decades.
Officials said the death toll in four towns north of Rio de Janeiro was still rising and could jump further once rescuers can reach areas cut off by Wednesday's slides.
MEXICO CITY -- Mexican soldiers clashed with gunmen for hours in the capital of the coastal state of Veracruz, leaving at least 12 suspects and two soldiers dead, authorities said.
The shooting ended early Friday and spanned at least two neighborhoods in the normally quiet city of Xalapad.
Veracruz, which sits on the Gulf of Mexico and boasts Mexico's principal seaport, has become a key base of operations for the feared Zetas drug-trafficking gang.
KOCHI, India -- A stampede of pilgrims returning from one of India's most popular Hindu festivals killed more than 100 people and injured 25 others Friday night, police said.
The stampede was set off when a group of pilgrims in a jeep drove into a crowd of worshippers walking along a narrow forest path as they returned from offering prayers at the hilltop Sabarimala shrine in the state of Kerala in southern India, police said.
The annual two-month festival attracts millions of worshippers to the remote temple to the Hindu deity Ayyappan.
KARACHI, Pakistan -- Islamic extremists rallied in support of the confessed killer of a liberal Pakistani governor on Friday and protested Pope Benedict XVI for urging the scrapping of blasphemy laws that stipulate death for those insulting Islam.
Right-wing Muslim groups have rallied their base against any move to dilute the laws after the sentencing of a Christian woman to death for blasphemy attracted local and international condemnation.
Around 1,000 protesters gathered near the house of the confessed killer, Mumtaz Qadri, in Rawalpindi city close to the capital, Islamabad, carrying banners that saluted him. Elsewhere, protesters took to the streets in Karachi and two other cities in support of the laws and against the remarks by the pope last week.
-- Compiled from news services
First Published January 15, 2011 12:00 am