Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI received w/ surprise and respect


Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he will step down Feb. 28 due to his "advanced age" was received with surprise and respect around the world.

The German-born Benedict XVI, who turns 86 in two months and became pontiff on April 19, 2005, disclosed the decision during a meeting with cardinals.

Italy's outgoing prime minister, Mario Monti, said Monday that he felt "very disturbed" over the news of the pontiff's impending departure, while Italian President Giorgio Napolitano praised Benedict's "extraordinary courage" in making the announcement that he will resign because he lacks the strength to continue in the post.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday thanked Benedict XVI for his years of work at the helm of the Catholic Church and wished him the best after his resignation, a "difficult decision" that she said deserved "the greatest respect."

"On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years," U.S. President Barack Obama said.




Cruise ship remains adrift in Gulf of Mexico after fire


A cruise ship sailing in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,200 people on board is being towed to the Mexican coast after being left adrift due to an engine room fire that knocked out the propulsion system.

Carnival, the largest cruise ship operator in the world, said that the enormous vessel could arrive at the port of Progreso on Wednesday and confirmed that no one was hurt in the blaze, which was quickly brought under control by the ship's automatic fire extinguisher system.

The Carnival Triumph went adrift some 250 kilometers (155 miles) off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Passengers were never without electricity thanks to the ship's emergency generators. There is also plenty of food and water on board.




"Babel" is Album of the Year at Grammys topped by The Black Keys


Babel," by the British group Mumford & Sons, won the prize for Album of the Year at the 55th Grammy Awards, but rockers The Black Keys walked away with four golden gramophones.

The Black Keys were confirmed as the big winners with four big wins: Best Rock Album for "El Camino," Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance, both for "Lonely Boy," and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical for guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach.

Gotye, Skrillex, Jay-Z and Kanye West took three awards each, while Frank Ocean, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, Matt Redman and the indie trio Fun. each made it a double play in the nearly four-hour-long gala, hosted by rapper LL Cool J.

In the Latin segment, Juanes won a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album with "MTV Unplugged Deluxe Edition" and The Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band was the winner of Best Latin Jazz Album for "Ritmo" (Rhythm).




"Argo" wins at Baftas and is big Oscar favorite


Ben Affleck's "Argo" was established as top favorite for the Oscars by winning in the British Academy Film Awards' most prestigious categories against Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."

With only two weeks to go before Hollywood hands out the industry's most valued prizes, the Royal Opera House in London was the scene of a ceremony Sunday night, hosted by Britain's Stephen Fry, that was full of surprises.

"Argo" walked off with some of the top awards, those for Best Film, Best Director and Best Editing, which had Ben Affleck appearing onstage twice.

"Lincoln" was the night's big loser because in spite of having the most nominations with a total of 10, it garnered just one award.




12 Killed in blast on Turkey's border with Syria


Twelve people died when a vehicle exploded on Turkey's southern border with strife-torn Syria, but it is still not clear if the blast was an attack or the accidental explosion of a vehicle loaded with explosives, NTV television said.

The vehicle that blew up had Syrian registration and the blast killed Turkish border guards as well as civilians from both Turkey and Syria.

Government spokesman Bulent Arinc confirmed the death toll and said that 28 other people had been wounded, speaking at a press conference broadcast live by NTV.




New app lets undocumented know their rights


The unpleasantness of being detained by immigration agents inspired Deyvid Morales to create a Spanish-language app for cell phones and tablets with crucial information for other undocumented immigrants who find themselves in custody.

"There are many apps on immigrant rights but not in Spanish, and our Hispanic community needs that kind of information all the time - that was part of the reason why I began this project," the 21-year-old told Efe.

Morales, who lives in Utah, was detained by the Border Patrol for the first time in January 2011 while traveling to Louisiana by Greyhound bus to attend Bible college.

For more than a year, the Mexican-born aspiring pastor fought to have his deportation suspended until Immigration and Customs Enforcement finally shelved the case.




Blast at Russian coal mine leaves 18 dead


Eighteen workers died in a gas explosion at a coal mine in the remote northern city of Vorkuta, the Russian Interior Ministry said.

"According to the reports we had as of 2:20 p.m. Moscow time (1020 GMT), 18 people have died, 10 of whom had already come to the surface," a ministry spokesman told the Interfax news agency.

The accident occurred in the Vorkutinskaya mine at 0628 GMT on Monday, authorities said.

Police in Vorkuta said 242 workers were able to get to the surface and out of the mine immediately after the explosion, which occurred at a depth of 800 meters (2,600 feet)




36 Dead in India railroad station stampede


At least 36 people died in a stampede at a railroad station in the northern Indian city of Allahabad amid the largest religious festival in the world, the IANS news agency said.

"We have identified 20 bodies, 14 of them women and six men, but another 16 have yet to be identified," an unnamed official told IANS.

The stampede started when an overloaded footbridge between two train platforms collapsed under a swarm of people trying to be in position to board a train coming into the station.




Brazil disco fire claims another life


The death of a young man who had been hospitalized with respiratory problems after being injured in the Jan. 27 fire in a discotheque in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Maria raised to 239 the death toll in the tragedy, authorities said.

The young man, whose identity was not revealed at the request of his relatives, died at Hospital Cristo Redentor in Porto Alegre.

The blaze broke out when a flare was lit during a concert being attended by some 800 people at the Kiss discotheque.




10 Cops arrested for attack on prosecutor in Mexico


Ten state police officers have been arrested in connection with the attack last week on the Morelos state attorney general that killed three of his bodyguards, Mexican officials said.

The officers are charged with homicide, attempted homicide and assault, a Morelos Attorney General's Office spokesman told Efe.

Morelos Attorney General Rodrigo Dorantes Salgado's bodyguards died last Friday in a shootout with officers in the central Mexican state.

Investigators have not yet determined whether the officers opened fire by mistake or were out to kill the attorney general.