Nation, World Briefs: Tropical Storm Noel leaves trail of 60 deaths

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Tropical Storm Noel triggered mudslides and floods in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, pushing the death toll to 60 on Wednesday and forcing some parents to choose which of their children to save from the surging waters. The storm lurched out of Cuba and stalled over the ocean, but was projected to skirt Florida and batter the Bahamas, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. A tropical storm watch was issued for parts of southeast Florida. With rain still falling two days after the storm hit, rescuers were struggling to reach communities cut off by flooding on the island of Hispaniola. As they did, they found a rising toll of death and damage — at least 41 dead in the Dominican Republic, 18 in Haiti and one in Jamaica.

Vatican: Saudi king to meet pope

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah will meet Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday in the first encounter between a pope and a Saudi monarch, the Vatican said. Abdullah is on a European tour and Benedict has been trying to increase dialogue between Catholics and Muslims. The Vatican and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations, but the Holy See has ties with many other Islamic nations. Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam that rejects the possibility of diplomatic relations with a Christian entity.

Russia: Bomb kills eight on bus

A strong bomb shredded a passenger bus Wednesday, killing eight people and injuring more than 60 in a central Russian city known for gang violence. One official speculated the blast in Togliatti was a terrorist attack, but others said that was only one possibility. They said investigators were also looking into whether it resulted from a turf battle between criminals or even the careless handling of explosives.

Indonesia: Death penalty upheld

A top Indonesian court ruled Tuesday that sentencing drug offenders to death does not violate the constitution, dismissing a case lodged by three Australians awaiting execution for smuggling heroin. Nine young Australians were arrested by Indonesian police in 2005 over a foiled plot to smuggle 18 pounds of heroin into Australia from the resort island of Bali. At the end of 2006, 134 people were on death row in Indonesia, including 37 foreigners and 97 Indonesians, most of them for drug-related crimes. The country has executed at least eight people since 2000.

Colombia: Troops find drug subs

Marines seized two homemade submarines that were being prepared to ship drugs from the country’s Pacific Coast, authorities said Wednesday. The two submarines, made of fiberglass, were found in a clandestine shipyard in the swamps around Colombia’s largest port, Buena­ventura, the navy said. Marines destroyed an unfinished submarine and sent the other, a 56-foot-long craft with the capacity to transport 5 tons of drugs, to a nearby naval base.

Germany: Theft of gold in teeth

Prosecutors demanded prison sentences Wednesday for six former workers at a German crematorium who allegedly stole gold fillings from the ashes of the dead and sold the metal to jewelers. The six men, ages 29 to 54, are accused of stealing the gold from cremated remains at the Nuremberg crematorium in hundreds of cases going back to 2001, and of selling it to jewelers for a total $194,000.

Hawaii: Legislature saves ferry

State lawmakers bailed out Hawaii’s fast new inter-island ferry on Wednesday, voting to put it back in service despite worries that it could damage the islands’ fragile environment. The state House voted 39-11 for an emergency measure saving the Hawaii Superferry, the final obstacle in the way of the 800-passenger, 42-mph ship that has been stalled for two months by protesters and court rulings. The bill previously passed the Senate and now goes to ferry supporter Gov. Linda Lingle.

New York: Security bypassed

A passenger who caused an evacuation at John F. Kennedy International Airport has told law enforcers that he breached security after going outside to smoke and then misplacing his boarding pass. William Contreras Ramos, 20, of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, told authorities that he was running late Tuesday and didn’t have his boarding pass, so he went through another door and was able to get to his flight’s gate. Deputies in Albany took him in for questioning when his flight arrived there.

Maryland: Transgender pastor

The highest judicial body of the United Methodist Church announced Tuesday that a transgender man can remain pastor of a congregation in Baltimore. The ruling by the Judicial Council affirms last spring’s decision by Bishop John School to reappoint the Rev. Drew Phoenix ­­— formerly the Rev. Ann Gordon — to St. John’s United Methodist Church. The Methodists’ Book of Discipline bars noncelibate gays and lesbians from serving as clergy but does not include any commentary about transgender people.

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