British cardinal resigns after accusations of improper conduct


Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Roman Catholic prelate, resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh after having been accused of "inappropriate behavior" toward other church members.

O'Brien, 74, was to have been the only British delegate at the conclave to elect a new pope after the recent resignation of Benedict XVI, but now he will not attend and Britain will thus be unrepresented.

"I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me - but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor," the cardinal explained when he announced his resignation, effective as of Monday.

His exit, along with that of another cardinal who is ill, will leave a total of 115 cardinals who will elect the new pontiff out of the 117 who had the right to vote on the matter.




Chemical blast in China forces 20,000 from homes


An explosion at a chemical plant in the central city of Guiyang left five people injured and forced some 20,000 others to leave their homes, China's official Xinhua news agency said.

The incident occurred around 10:20 a.m. at a factory of the Bestchem company whose principal product is pyrethoid, a substance used in pesticides.

Following the explosion, all inhabitants within a radius of 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) were ordered to evacuate, including students on the campus of Baiyun University.

The five injured were factory employees.




"Argo" and "Life of Pi" big winners at Oscars


The film "Argo" won the prize for best picture at the 85th Academy Awards, in which the Oscars were widely distributed and where "Life of Pi" was the biggest winner with four prizes, including the win by Chile's Claudio Miranda for best director of cinematography.

"Argo" took three golden statuettes, as did "Les Miserables," while "Lincoln," nominated in 12 categories, was awarded just two Oscars, the same number as "Skyfall" and "Django Unchained."

Taiwanese moviemaker Ang Lee made off with the best director prize for "Life of Pi" when all the predictions pointed to a win by Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln."

Spielberg had to settle for seeing the star of his feature film, Daniel Day-Lewis, take the best actor statuette, the third of his career and a record in that category.




Raul Castro says he will retire from Cuba's presidency in 5 years


Cuban President Raul Castro said he planned to retire in 2018, when his current five-year term ends.

The 81-year-old Castro was re-elected to another term over the weekend by the Cuban National Assembly.

The assembly also elected 52-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel to be the communist-ruled island's first vice president.

National Assembly members took up a measure backed by Castro that would impose a two-term limit on political posts and set mandatory retirement ages.

Diaz-Canel's election as the government's No. 2 man was a significant move.




Kerry: U.S. won't take sides in Falklands quarrel


The U.S. government will not take sides in the dispute between Britain and Argentina over sovereignty in the Falkland Islands, John Kerry said here at the beginning of his first official overseas journey as secretary of state.

"First of all, I'm not going to comment, nor is the president (Barack Obama), on a referendum that has yet to take place," the secretary said when asked whether the world was bound to respect the Falklanders' opinion as expressed in a vote set for next month.

"Our position on the Falklands has not changed. The United States recognizes de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the question of parties' sovereignty claims thereto," Kerry said after talks in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague.

"We support cooperation between UK and Argentina on practical matters," Washington's top diplomat added.

The South Atlantic archipelago known to Latin Americans as the Malvinas was the object of a brief 1982 war between Argentina and Britain.




6 Die in explosions in southern Afghanistan


At least four civilians and two police officers died when two bombs exploded in two separate incidents in southern Afghanistan, police told Efe.

One of the blasts, which killed four civilians and wounded two more, occurred in Helmand province, according to a regional police source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The other bomb exploded on the outskirts of the town of Trinkot, in Uruzgan province, killing two police officers and wounding a third, according to provincial police spokesman Farid Ayel.




Colombians nabbed in Spain with mini-arsenal


Seven Colombian nationals suspected of acting as enforcers for drug cartels were arrested in Madrid in possession of a grenade-launcher and other armament, Spanish officials said.

Authorities had been tracking the suspects for 16 months and decided to pounce after the group received a shipment of weapons, the secretary of state for Security, Francisco Martinez, and police director Ignacio Cosido told a press conference.

Investigators think the suspects were sent to Spain to collect debts and settle scores on behalf of Colombian drug cartels while also trying to forge an alliance with Mexican traffickers based in the Mediterranean city of Valencia.




Adele gets Oscar for "Skyfall" theme


Adele and Paul Epworth have managed a first for the James Bond franchise, winning an Oscar for Best Original Song with "Skyfall," the theme for the like-named 007 box office smash.

Only three other performers, including Paul McCartney, had come close to winning an Academy Award during the 50-year-old Bond series.

The British singer delivered her first live performance Sunday in more than a year.




Peru ousts nearly 500 high-ranking cops


Peru's National Police dismissed 498 chiefs and senior officers nationwide as part of the measures being taken to improve public safety and combat organized crime, La Republica newspaper said.

The shakeup also included chiefs of the drug units in the country's two main coca-producing regions.

The replacing of precinct chiefs in Lima was done because the officers "don't have the profile the command needs," the PNP director told the capital daily.