World news briefs: 10/12/13

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Cyclone takes aim at India

NEW DELHI -- Tens of thousands of people along India's eastern coast were evacuated and the military placed on alert Friday as a powerful cyclone over the Bay of Bengal moved toward the country's coastline, officials said.

Cyclone Phailin, classified as "very severe" by the Indian Meteorological Department, was expected to hit Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states with winds of more than 125 mph this evening.

Located more than 280 miles from the Indian coast, the cyclone was expected to bring a storm surge of up to 10 feet, state officials said. The cyclone was said to be more than 300 miles in diameter.

Areas experiencing the storm's "maximum impact'' could face large-scale power and communication outages.

27 migrants drown

VALLETTA, Malta -- For the second time in a week, a smugglers' boat overloaded with migrants capsized in the Canal of Sicily on Friday as it made the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe. At least 27 people drowned, but 221 people were rescued.

Helicopters ferried the injured to Lampedusa, the Italian island that is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland and the destination of choice for most smugglers' boats leaving Tunisia or Libya.

Kerry travels to Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Secretary of State John F. Kerry made an unannounced visit to Kabul on Friday to press Afghan President Hamid Karzai to work out the last, divisive details of a proposed U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal of NATO forces.

The Bilateral Security Agreement that has been under negotiation for a year must be completed by the end of this month to allow the United States and its allies time to outline the foreign troops' responsibilities and restrictions.

Fracking ban upheld

PARIS -- France's highest court on Friday upheld a government ban on a controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

The Constitutional Council ruled against a challenge by Schuepbach Energy, a U.S. company, whose exploration permits were revoked after the French Parliament banned the practice.

Environmental concerns, particularly worries about the danger to water supplies, have slowed adoption of fracking in Europe.

Piracy charges ridiculed

MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin's human rights adviser urged prosecutors to drop piracy charges against Greenpeace activists for an Arctic protest, saying it's as stupid as accusing them of raping the oil platform they scaled.

The prosecution of 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists from 18 countries, who each face as long as 15 years in prison, is damaging Russia's international reputation, according to Mikhail Fedotov. They should be charged with minor hooliganism at the most, which carries a maximum of sentence of 15 days in jail, he said.

Also in the world ...

An abandoned factory once owned by Hershey Co. in Canada may soon be making products that offer a bigger buzz than a chocolate kiss: marijuana, under license by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. ... A new series of special commemorative coins honoring Pope Francis misspelled the name Jesus. They call him Lesus. The Vatican confirmed Friday that it had withdrawn 6,000 coins commemorating Pope Francis' first year in the papacy.


First Published October 11, 2013 8:00 PM


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