Mandela improving after 5 days in hospital


Former head of state Nelson Mandela responded positively to treatment for a lung infection, the first sign of progress since he was admitted to the hospital in serious condition five days ago, the South African government said.

"We are very happy with the progress that he is now making," President Jacob Zuma said in a speech to parliament.

The good news was made public after Zuma on Tuesday had called Mandela's condition very serious.

Mandela, 94, has gone into the hospital four times since last December, each time for a recurrence of the respiratory infection.




8 Brazilian firefighters charged in deadly blaze


Eight Brazilian firefighters were charged with failing to properly inspect the nightclub in the southern city of Santa Maria where a Jan. 27 blaze resulted in 242 deaths.

Brazil's national fire rescue service is part of the military and the charges were filed by military prosecutors.

The accusations against the firefighters come in addition to those presented by civilian authorities against the two owners of the discotheque and two members of the band that was performing on the night of the fire.

The fire broke out in the wee hours of Jan. 27 while between 800-900 people were inside the nightclub, whose capacity is just 600, according to investigators.

Police say flammable soundproofing foam on the ceiling caught fire after one of the members of Gurizada Fandangueira lit a flare.




Australian begins Cuba-U.S. swim without shark cage


Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel set off from Havana in a bid to reach Key West, Florida, in 60 hours without the aid of a shark cage.

McCardel began her endurance swim from the Ernest Hemingway International Nautical Club, located just west of the Cuban capital, wearing only her swimming suit, goggles, swim cap and a cream to protect her skin.

The 29-year-old will try to surpass the feat of countrywoman Susan Maroney, who completed the 190-kilometer (100-mile) Straits of Florida crossing in May 1997 but did so while enclosed in a cage to protect herself from potential shark attacks.




Police free 275 people forced to work at tomato farm in Mexico


Police freed 275 people who were being forced to work at a tomato farm in San Gabriel, a city in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, prosecutors said.

The victims - 191 men, 45 women and 39 children - belonged to 42 families and were forced to live inside the tomato packing plant in subhuman conditions, the Jalisco Attorney General's Office said.

The workers were from rural communities in Veracruz, San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo states, the AG's office said.




Suspects in killings of 13 women arrested in northern Mexico


Six gang members were arrested in connection with the murders of 13 women between 2009 and 2011 in northern Mexico, the Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office said.

The victims' remains were found last year, special prosecutor Jorge Gonzalez said.

The suspects, who were arrested early Tuesday, belong to a gang that sexually exploited women, employing them at several businesses, including a modeling agency, Gonzalez said.

The women were later forced to sell drugs and work as prostitutes in downtown Ciudad Juarez, located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, the prosecutor said.

The gang had 12 members, of whom six were already imprisoned on drug and femicide charges, Gonzalez said.




World's oldest man dies in Japan at 116


Jiroemon Kimura, acknowledged by Guinness World Records as the oldest person in the world, has died, authorities in the western Japanese municipality of Kyotango reported. He was 116.

Kimura died about a month after being hospitalized in the town where he had lived for almost his entire life.

With his death, Misao Okawa, a 115-year-old women living in the Japanese city of Osaka, has now become the world's oldest person, Guinness authorities announced in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Kimura, who was born into a family of farmers on April 19, 1897, was recognized as the world's oldest living man by Guinness World Records in 2011.




Spain arrests Tunisians for spreading jihadist propaganda


Police arrested five Tunisians on charges they disseminated jihadist propaganda and bomb-making tips via the Internet, Spain's Interior Ministry said.

The suspects uploaded more than 400 files with text, still photos and video of attacks and speeches by the late Osama bin Laden and other prominent terrorists, the ministry said in a statement.

The Barcelona-based group also posted instructions for making explosives and information on the training of jihadist militants.




Spurs bury Heat with 3-pointers in 113-77 Game 3 win; Parker hurt


The San Antonio Spurs connected on an NBA Finals-record 16 3-point shots en route to a 113-77 rout of the Miami Heat in Game 3, although a hamstring injury to star point guard Tony Parker put a damper on their celebration.

Unheralded role players Danny Green and Gary Neal were the story of Tuesday night's victory at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, combining for 51 points and 13 3-pointers as the Spurs dominated the Heat in all facets of the game to take a 2-1 series lead.

The Spurs had a narrow 50-44 advantage at halftime, but their second-half three-point barrage blew the game wide open and both benches were emptied with several minutes left in the fourth quarter.




60 Shiites killed in fighting in Syria


At least 60 Shiites, the majority of them militiamen loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad, were killed in combat with rebels in a town in the northeastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Fighting broke out Tuesday in the town of Hatla, which has a Shiite minority, after pro-government militiamen attacked a nearby rebel position, killing two insurgents and wounding eight others, the group said.

The insurgents took control of the town and killed 60 residents, the majority of them pro-Assad militiamen.

Ten rebels also died in the fighting, the group said.