Tens of thousands of immigrants call for immigration reform at Capitol


Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered before the Capitol here under a hot sun to demand comprehensive immigration reform that opens a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Shouting "Llego la hora" (the time has come), immigrants from all over the United States, but mostly Latin Americans, demonstrated before the Capitol on a day organizers called "historic" in the fight for immigrants' rights in this country.

"This demonstration is just one of the events that the immigrant community will hold in the coming weeks to demonstrate our power and to pressure Congress in favor of this reform," Salvadoran Rev. Vidal Rivas told Efe.

The demonstration in the nation's capital was staged along with protests in some 18 other states and was participated in by civil rights organizations, unions, Democratic members of Congress and artists such as Puerto Rico's Olga Tañon and bachata singer "Andy Andy."

Illinois Democratic lawmaker Luis Gutierrez exhorted the crowd and emphasized the electoral weight Hispanics had had last November, ballot box clout that contributed to President Barack Obama's reelection.

"That vote ... was made with much hope and confidence" that Obama would fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to enact immigration reform, Gutierrez said.




Senators announce bipartisan gun control agreement


U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin announced a bipartisan agreement to strengthen background checks for all commercial gun sales as a measure to reduce firearm violence in the country.

The proposal by Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has enough support from fellow legislators to pass both in the Senate and in the House, they pair said at a press conference.

Toomey told reporters that there are a "substantial" number of Republicans in the House who support the measure.

Since the Newtown elementary school massacre last December, debate in the U.S. has been ongoing regarding gun control, an issue that has become a priority on President Barack Obama's political agenda.

The bipartisan proposal would be an amendment to current legislation on firearms.




Pope speaks in Spanish for 1st time at public audience


For the first time during one of his Wednesday public audiences, Pope Francis spoke in Spanish, the language he used along with Italian to greet the roughly 40,000 people from all over the world who came to St. Peter's Square for the traditional weekly meeting with the faithful.

Since his election to the papacy on March 13, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio has only spoken in public in Italian, with the exception of the day on which he greeted reporters from all over the world who were covering the conclave, when he uttered a single phrase in Spanish.

On Wednesday, the pope used Italian to greet the faithful who spoke Portuguese, French, English, German, Polish, Arabic and Italian, but when he greeted the Latin Americans, he did so in Spanish, which brought applause from them.




Cuba turns over to U.S. couple who kidnapped their 2 sons


A U.S. couple accused of kidnapping their two sons in Florida and fleeing to Cuba by boat were turned over to U.S. authorities, who arrested the man and the woman, authorities in Florida's Hillsborough County announced.

The parents of the two young boys remain under arrest and are waiting to appear in court so that charges can be presented against them, a spokesman with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office told Efe.

The parents - Joshua Michael Hakken, 36, and his wife, Sharyn Patricia Hakken, 35 - as well as their two sons, 3-year-old Chase Julian and 5-year-old Cole Travis, whose maternal grandmother had custody of them, were turned over by Cuba to the United States after the parents sailed to the island.




Cuban V.P. admits "limitations" exist on press


Cuba's senior vice president admitted that "limitations" exist on the work of the press on the island, Communist Party daily Granma said.

Miguel Diaz-Canel, who moved into the post of first vice president in February, spoke with reporters during a tour through the central province of Ciego de Avila and "admitted that limitations exist on the work of the press professionals."

Recently, President Raul Castro has urged that "the excess of secrecy" be overcome, that the Cuban media abandon excessively optimistic habits and that the media play a decisive role in the "objective, constant and critical" dissemination of the economic reforms that his government has launched.




33 Infected with bird flu, China says


The number of people infected with the new H7N9 strain of bird flu in China stands at 33 with the detection of five more cases, while a 4-year-old boy who had experienced slight symptoms made a complete recovery.

Nine people have died of the virus.

By regions, Shanghai continues to have the greatest number of cases, with 15, followed by Jiangsu with 10, Zhejiang with 6 and Anhui with 2, all in eastern China.




Pakistan tests medium-range nuclear-capable missile


The Pakistani armed forces reported that they successfully tested an improved version of the Hatf IV ballistic missile, which has a range of 900 kilometers (558 miles) and can carry nuclear warheads.

According to an official statement, the missile impacted in the waters of the Arabian Sea, south of Pakistan.

With this new version, which improved "its range and technical parameters," the Hatf IV "consolidates and strengthens Pakistan's deterrent capability," the text went on to say.

Pakistan and India, bitter rivals who have fought three wars since their independence in 1947, routinely test their nuclear-capable missiles and normally do so with just a few days separating the tests by each country.




Archaeologists find 2,000-year-old ritual bath in Jerusalem


Archaeologists discovered here a 2,000-year-old ritual bath that used a highly sophisticated system of water collection to comport with Jewish law, the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

Uncovered during preparations to build a new road in Jerusalem's Kiryat Menachem neighborhood, the ritual bath, or "mikveh," goes back to the period of the Second Temple.

"Numerous ritual baths have been excavated in Jerusalem in recent years, but the water supply system that we exposed in this excavation is unique and unusual," excavation director Benyamin Storchan said in a statement from the IAA.




Death toll rises to 37 in Iran earthquake


The death toll from the magnitude-6.1 earthquake that hit the Iranian province of Bushehr has risen to 37, with 850 people injured and more than 800 dwellings destroyed, officials said.

The deaths occurred in the towns of Kaki, where the quake's epicenter was located, Tasuch and Shanbe, the official IRNA news agency reported, citing Bushehr Gov. Fereydoun Hasanvand.

The majority of the injured are being treated at hospitals in the city of Bushehr, Hasanvand said.

The provincial emergency management committee met early Wednesday to decide the next steps to take in dealing with the disaster, Hasanvand said.