Dozens hurt when ferry collides with dock in New York


More than 70 people were injured, two of them critically, when a ferry packed with commuters from New Jersey crashed into a dock in New York City.

The accident occurred around 8:40 a.m. at Pier 11 in lower Manhattan, near Wall Street, and involved a vessel operated by the firm Seastreak Ferry.

Two people were critically hurt and nine others suffered serious injuries, New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told reporters at the scene. She said the double-decker ferry was moving at a speed of 10-12 knots as it struck Slip D on the approach to Slip B.

With a maximum capacity of 400, the ferry was carrying 343 passengers and five crew members at the time of the crash.




Venezuela's high court backs Chavez stance on inauguration


Venezuela's Supreme Court endorsed the government's position that ailing President Hugo Chavez can delay his swearing-in for another term without creating a constitutional vacuum.

The 58-year-old head of state, who won another term in the Oct. 7 election, remains hospitalized in Cuba four weeks after undergoing his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months.

"Despite the beginning of a new constitutional period on Jan. 10, a new oath-taking is not necessary in relation to President Hugo Chavez in his condition as a re-elected president," Supreme Court Chief Justice Luisa Estella Morales told reporters.

The high court's opinion supports the Chavez administration's view that under Article 231 of the Venezuelan Constitution, the president may be sworn-in by the Supreme Court at a later date.




Cuban opposition figure promotes democracy manifesto


Cuban opposition figure Oscar Elias Biscet here presented a manifesto on which he intends to collect signatures to promote a move toward democracy on the Communist-ruled island.

Accompanied by about a dozen dissidents, Biscet read the document at an appearance before international media where he demanded a "total change" in Cuba because "the people are tired of tyranny."

The manifesto claims that Cuba's current constitution, parliament and government are illegitimate.

It also demands that the legal system be based on principles such as popular sovereignty, a government based on the consent of the governed, guarantees for basic human rights and free and transparent elections.




Hispanic poet to recite poem at Obama's inauguration


Cuban American poet Richard Blanco has been selected to recite a poem at the Jan. 21 inauguration of President Barack Obama, according to the organizing committee for the event.

Blanco, 44, will be the first Latino and the first openly gay poet to recite one of his works at a U.S. presidential inauguration.

The first poet to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration was Robert Frost, who participated in John F. Kennedy's inaugural in 1961. Just three other poets have been chosen to do likewise since then: Maya Angelou, Miller Williams and Elizabeth Alexander.




Nearly 1,600 furloughed inmates go missing, Brazil says


Nearly 1,600 Brazilian inmates who received holiday furloughs have not returned to their prisons, the state-run Agencia Brasil reported.

The number represents 5.93 percent of the 26,486 prisoners who were given furloughs for good behavior in the states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo, as well as in the Federal District of Brasilia.




India rails at Pakistan after deadly clash in Kashmir


India lodged a formal protest with Pakistan over an incident in the disputed territory of Kashmir that left two Indian soldiers dead, but Islamabad denied any wrongdoing and called for a U.N. investigation.

"Regular Pakistan troops crossed the Line of Control ... and engaged the Indian troops who were patrolling the sector," India's foreign ministry said after the Pakistani envoy in New Delhi was summoned.

"Two Indian soldiers were killed in the attack and their bodies subjected to barbaric and inhuman mutilation," the ministry said in a statement, demanding that Pakistan ensure that nothing similar happens again.

The Line of Control, or LoC, divides the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region whose then-ruler declined to join Pakistan, founded as a state for Muslims, when the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947.




Mild Florida winter led to fewer manatee deaths in 2012


Mild winter temperatures in Florida caused manatee deaths to drop in 2012 to their lowest level of the past four years, though 392 of those marine mammals still died.

The figure was provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, which noted that a quarter of manatee deaths last year were due to human-related causes.

The number was welcome news considering that the number of deaths among that protected species hit a record high of 766 in 2010, 282 of them attributed to cold stress.




Halloween party tragedy forces resignation of Madrid deputy mayor


Madrid Deputy Mayor Miguel Angel Villanueva resigned, two months after the Halloween party tragedy that resulted in the deaths of five young women in a human stampede, officials told Efe.

Opposition councilors had requested his resignation for having headed the municipal Madrid company charged with managing the Madrid Arena, where the huge Halloween party was held.

The opposition has accused the municipal government of giving special treatment to businessman Miguel Angel Flores, the party's promoter, by virtue of his personal relationship with Villanueva.

Flores has been free since Dec. 28 after posting bail of 200,000 euros ($264,000).

Villanueva denied that any favorable treatment had been given and said about the businessman that one "cannot be made responsible" for the actions of an "acquaintance."