Senate confirms Thomas Perez as labor secretary


The Senate voted 54-46 to confirm Thomas Perez as labor secretary, making him the only Latino in the Cabinet six months into President Barack Obama's second term.

The confirmation came two days after the Democratic majority threatened to change the chamber's rules to put an end to the dilatory tactics of the Republican minority that were impeding the votes on Perez and other Obama administration nominees.

Perez, the 51-year-old son of Dominican immigrants, up to now had headed the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

During his confirmation hearings and before the vote by the full Senate, Republicans repeated their criticism of the work Perez has done regarding voting rights and immigration.




Spain's Juan Carlos receives golden key to Moroccan capital


Spain's King Juan Carlos wrapped up his official visit to Morocco with two events loaded with symbolism: receiving the golden key to the city of Rabat and inaugurating - together with King Mohammed VI - a youth center.

The satisfaction in Morocco with the result of this trip, the first by Juan Carlos after his March 3 back surgery, has been complete, as Prime Minister Abdelilah Bankiran acknowledged Thursday after bidding the Spanish monarch farewell at the airport.

The four-day visit leaves bilateral economic, social, educational and cultural relations on the right track, and the progress made in these areas will allow the two nations to strengthen mutual cooperation within their "strategic partnership," the objectives of which are delineated in a joint declaration made public on Thursday.




PayPal error credits man with $92 quadrillion


A U.S. PayPal customer got the shock of his life when he looked at his account with the online payment outfit and found that he had a balance of more than $92 quadrillion, making him - momentarily - by far the world's richest man, ABC News reported.

Chris Reynolds, a Pennsylvania resident, told the news channel that he found his account with PayPal showed the huge credit, a sum that is many times greater than the U.S. GDP.

Being a "responsible guy," Reynolds joked that the second thing he thought was that he could use a smidgen of those funds to pay down the U.S. national debt, which amounts to "only" $16 trillion.

All good things must come to an end, however, and PayPal quickly noted the error and corrected it, returning Reynolds account with the firm to zero, where it had been before.




TEPCO detects "steam-like gas" at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant


The operator of Japan's disabled Fukushima nuclear plant announced that it had detected "steam-like gas" in one of the reactor buildings but said no significant change in radiation levels had been observed.

Tokyo Electric Power Company said in a statement that one of its workers noticed on video camera early Thursday that the steam was "wafting through the air near the central part of the fifth floor (equipment storage pool side) of Unit 3."

That reactor was seriously damaged by a hydrogen explosion and partial meltdown in the wake of the devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, and crippled the plant.




India to clamp down on acid sales amid spate of attacks


India's Supreme Court ruled that authorities must impose tighter regulation on the sale of acid, a common weapon in attacks on women.

The decision also requires the government to pay compensation to victims of acid attacks.

Judge R.M. Lodha's order calls for limits to be placed on the number of shops that can sell acid and for vendors to be required to maintain records of purchasers.

Shops that fail to keep registers of their customers will be punished with fines of up to 50,000 rupees ($838).




Mexican security forces rescue 80 migrants


Mexican security forces rescued 80 Central American migrants and a Mexican being held captive in Reynosa, located across the border from McAllen, Texas, the Tamaulipas state government said.

"The Tamaulipas Coordination Group, via the mixed operations base made up of state and federal security forces, rescued 81 people who had been deprived of their liberty in the city of Reynosa," the state government said in a statement, without the releasing the date of the operation.

Officials ordered the operation after receiving a telephone tip from a citizen.




Astronomers capture images of gas cloud being ripped apart by black hole


The first images of a gas cloud being ripped apart by Sagittarius A-star, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, have been captured by the Very Large Telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory, or ESO.

"The cloud is now so stretched that its front part has passed the closest point and is traveling away from the black hole at more than 10 million km/h, whilst the tail is still falling toward it," the ESO said in a statement.

This phenomenon at the center of the Milky Way was observed at the ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile.




Millions of South Africans celebrate Mandela Day


Millions of South Africans took part in hundreds of events nationwide in honor of revered ex-President Nelson Mandela, who remains hospitalized on his 95th birthday.

Nine of every 10 youths in this country of 50 million inhabitants will dedicate 67 minutes of their time on Thursday to charity or community-service work, according to a survey released Wednesday.

That in homage to the 67 years Mandela devoted to fighting against South Africa's apartheid regime and upholding human rights.

The United Nations officially declared Nelson Mandela International Day - celebrated on July 18, the birthday of the "father of the nation" - in November 2009.