U.S. to give more support, including military aid, to Syrian rebels


The United States will give "military support" to the Syrian opposition forces after confirming that the regime of Bashar al Assad has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the rebels over the past several months.

President Barack Obama "has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition. That will involve providing direct support to the (Supreme Military Council). That includes military support. I cannot detail for you all of the types of that support for a variety of reasons," Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters.

The assistance is "aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC on the ground," he added.

Regarding the use of chemical weapons against the rebels, Rhodes said that in doing so the Syrian regime had crossed "clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades" against the use of such weapons.

Obama had declared that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would change his stance on how to respond to the ongoing civil war there and that has now occurred, Rhodes said.




At least 1 dead in Louisiana chemical plant blast


At least one person was killed and 73 others were injured in a huge explosion followed by a fire at a chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana, state Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

At the time of the blast, there were about 600 workers at the plant, State Police Capt. Doug Cain said.

The injured were taken by ambulance and helicopter to hospitals in the area.

The explosion occurred shortly after 8:30 a.m. and two hours later police blocked off the surrounding roadways.

At 1 p.m., state police said that the fire had been extinguished and that the situation was under control.




Train crash kills 3, injures 155 in Argentina


At least three people were killed and 155 others injured when two trains collided outside Argentina's capital, officials said.

The accident occurred in Castelar, located 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) west of Buenos Aires, at 7:07 a.m. when a train headed for the city of Moron hit an empty train that was stopped on the tracks.

The cause of the accident has not been determined, officials said.

Dozens of people have signed up on a registry set up by officials for those trying to find loved ones.




Argentina's Menem gets 7-year sentence for arms trafficking


An Argentine court sentenced former President Carlos Menem to seven years in prison for illegal foreign arms sales during his 1989-1999 tenure.

Menem, who is a senator, can appeal to the Supreme Court.

The judges asked the Senate to revoke Menem's legislative immunity.

Menem was not in court to hear the sentence due to "problems with high-blood pressure and diabetes," his defense attorney said in a statement.

The 82-year-old former president and several co-defendants were convicted March 8 by Argentina's top criminal appellate panel, which overturned Menem's 2011 acquittal and ordered the original trial court to pass sentence.

Menem's former defense minister, Oscar Camilion, was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison in the same case.




Shenzhou X docks with Chinese space lab


China's Shenzhou X spacecraft with three astronauts on board docked with the Tiangong I space laboratory, where the crew will carry out repair work and perform experiments.

The docking maneuver came at the scheduled time - 1:18 p.m. (0518 GMT) - and was performed automatically, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

The Shenzhou X, which will remain in orbit for 15 days, is scheduled to carry out two dockings with the Tiangong I, which was launched in September 2011 and initially was expected to cease operating this year and plunge back to Earth, although the Chinese space program has managed to prolong its life.




7 Die in fuel-truck crash in Mexico


Seven people were killed and several others injured when a truck carrying fuel smashed into buildings and vehicles near a tollbooth on Mexico's Siglo XXI expressway, police said.

The accident took place just before 11:00 a.m. in San Angel Zurumucapio, a municipality in the western state of Michoacan, Federal Police inspector Teofilo Gutierrez told EFE.

The truck crashed into public restrooms and around a dozen vehicles that were lined up at the tollbooth, he said.

It appears the truck's brakes failed, Gutierrez said.

The driver was pulled from the wreckage before the fuel-laden vehicle caught fire and is being treated at a nearby hospital.




Jennifer Lopez to receive star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame


Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to the music world in a ceremony scheduled for June 20, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced.

The Latino artist will be honored with star No. 2,500 on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles, a milestone that will be marked with a special emblem on the sidewalk.




6 Afghan police shot by one of their own


Six Afghan police officers were killed by another member of the security forces in the southern province of Helmand, an official told Efe.

The police officers, including a major, were at a security checkpoint in the Sangin district, said provincial government spokesman Omar Zwak.

"This morning, a police officer fired on four national and two local police officers," Zwak said, adding that the shooter could be a member of the Taliban who had infiltrated the force.

The shooter fled in a police vehicle after the killings taking with him several weapons.

The insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack and confirmed that the attack was carried out by a Taliban member, the local news agency AIP reported.




Australian woman abandons Cuba-Florida swim over jellyfish stings


Australian Chloe McCardel is recovering in Florida from jellyfish stings that forced her to abandon her attempt to become the first person to swim from Havana to Key West without a shark cage.

"Chloe McCardel and her team have safely returned to Key West in Florida after her attempt to swim from Cuba to the U.S. was ended by severe and debilitating jellyfish stings," according to a statement Thursday on the swimmer's Facebook page.

The 29-year-old was trying to set a new world record for a solo unassisted ocean swim, but had to end the attempt after covering 19 kilometers (12 miles) in 11 hours.