T.S. Andrea makes landfall in Florida's Big Bend region


Tropical Storm Andrea, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, made landfall in the Big Bend region of northwestern Florida, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm, which formed in the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, had maximum sustained winds of 100 kph (65 mph), the NHC said in its latest advisory.

At 5:00 p.m. EDT, Andrea was located 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Tallahassee and moving toward the northeast at 28 kph (17 mph).

"Andrea will move northeastward near the East Coast of the United States through Saturday," losing its tropical characteristics in the process, the NHC said.




Serena demolishes Errani to reach French Open final


American Serena Williams put on a devastating display of power and precision in the French Open semifinals, routing Sara Errani - last year's finalist - 6-0, 6-1 in just 46 minutes.

Williams, who is seeking just her second Roland Garros title, showed once again on Court Philippe Chatrier that she is virtually unplayable when in peak form.

Errani, who has one of the weaker serves on the WTA Tour, was barely able to get a rally started because Williams blasted many of the Italian's first serves for clean winners.

The world's top-ranked player won 53 points to just 16 for Errani for the contest and has spent just six hours and 45 minutes on court through six matches. She did, however, lose a set in Tuesday's quarterfinals against Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova.




Christie names state AG as New Jersey's interim senator


New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced his nomination of state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to serve as interim senator until the special election on Oct. 16.

Chiesa, a Republican, will occupy the seat of Democrat Frank Lautenberg, who died Monday at age 89, and he will not run in the special election, the governor said.

Christie noted at a press conference that he had promised he was going to choose the best person for the post and on Thursday he said he was convinced that that person is Chiesa.




Flooding in Central Europe claims 18 lives


At least 18 people have died as a result of the intense rains and flooding that have been plaguing Central Europe since last week and, although in some of the most heavily affected regions the situation seems to be easing at this point, other zones are expecting worse to come.

In Germany, the situation is becoming very serious given that - besides the zones that have been completely inundated, mainly in Bavaria - now it is expected that rivers in the northern part of the country will also begin rising.

Predictions are that the Elbe, Spree and Neisse rivers will rise considerably on the weekend such that the situation in the coming days could become critical.

More than 7,000 households in the Czech Republic continue to be without electricity, gas and heating due to the flooding, Radio Prague reported.




6 Dead in Philadelphia building collapse


At least six people died and 14 others were injured when a building collapsed in downtown Philadelphia, where rescue teams continue to search for survivors, U.S. media outlets said.

The bodies of four women and a man were found in the rubble over the past few hours, after the body of another woman was found on Wednesday, NBC News said.

Thirteen people were rescued, many of them with only slight injuries.

A 61-year-old woman was pulled alive from the rubble.




U.S. gov't targeting phone records of millions of Americans


The U.S. National Security Agency is receiving daily reports from telecoms giant Verizon detailing the call records of the company's millions of subscribers, The Guardian said.

The British newspaper obtained a copy of a top secret court order requiring Verizon to provide the data on an "ongoing, daily basis."

Obtained in April by the FBI, the order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court pertains to all telephone calls in Verizon's networks, including those where both parties are inside the United States.

The authority to demand the call data lasts until July 19.




Russia's Putin and wife announce divorce


President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila on announced their divorce in remarks to Russian television.

"This was a joint decision. Our marriage has ended. We practically don't see each other. Each has their own life," the president said.

The couple made their remarks after attending the ballet "Esmeralda" at the Grand Palace in the Kremlin.

"Yes, one can say that this is a civilized divorce. We love our children very much, we're proud of them, we see (them) often," Lyudmila Putina said.

The 55-year-old Russian first lady acknowledged that she does not like being a public person and that airplane flights give her difficulties.




Mexican army rescues 165 migrants from gang


Soldiers rescued 165 migrants, including 151 foreigners, from the clutches of a criminal gang in the northern border state of Tamaulipas, the Mexican government said.

Most of the foreign captives were from Central America, but the group also included an Indian national, federal security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told reporters.

A tip from the public led to the search of a home in the town of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, where troops detained a rifle-toting man, Sanchez said.

Seven children and two pregnant women were among the captives, he said.

The migrants spent more than two weeks crammed into the gang's safe house as the criminals telephoned the captives' families to demand ransoms, the spokesman said.




China attributes deadly factory blaze to negligence


The Chinese government said that the fire at a poultry plant that killed 120 people and injured 77 was due to negligence by the company and the regulatory authorities.

The director of the State Administration of Work Safety, Yang Dongliang, made the announcement Thursday from Changchun, capital of the northeastern province of Jilin, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"The company must not evade its responsibility to maintain safety, nor the government its (responsibility) of supervising the firm's management," Yang said.

The preliminary investigation found that safety procedures at the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company are "a total mess," Yang said.




3 Afghan civilians die in drone strike


Three civilians were killed and six others injured in a U.S. drone strike in the eastern province of Kunar, an Afghan official told Efe.

The attack took place Wednesday night in the Damgarek area, Kunar provincial government spokesman Abdul Ghani said.

"According to the preliminary investigation, there are children and women among the dead," he said.