VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI appeared in good shape on Saturday as he addressed the faithful two days after a woman knocked him down at the start of Christmas Eve Mass. Benedict spoke about the plight of persecuted Christians around the world and did not mention the incident in his message to a crowd gathered in a rainy St. Peter’s Square. The 82-year-old pontiff was processing through St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday when a woman described by Vatican officials as mentally unstable jumped the barricades and pulled him to the ground as she was taken down by guards.
Norway: Women on boards
Norway on Saturday stepped up its efforts to make its boardrooms more gender-neutral by introducing a new law requiring at least 40 percent of its municipal-owned company boards to be female. The Norwegian ministry of local government said the new law is the first of its kind in Europe and will go into effect on Jan. 1. The new law is set to cover up to 1,500 companies in which the state has at least a two-third ownership. The ministry said the rules will have an implementation period of two years.
Pakistan: U.S. missile strike
A suspected U.S. missile strike killed three people Saturday in a northwest Pakistani tribal region where militants focused on fighting the West in Afghanistan are concentrated, two Pakistani intelligence officials said. The missile strike was apparently the latest in a lengthy campaign of such attacks by the U.S., which rarely discusses the covert program but has in the past said it has taken out several top al-Qaida operatives. Pakistan publicly opposes the strikes but is believed to secretly aid them.
Bolivia: Coca farmer rules
President Evo Morales said Saturday that he plans to make it legal for Bolivia’s farmers to grow small parcels of coca plants. Morales, who also heads a coca growers association, said he wants to permit individual farmers to cultivate coca plots of 130 feet by 130 feet. Coca leaf is the key ingredient of cocaine. Morales said Bolivia’s anti-drug laws allow the cultivation of a total of 29,640 acres of coca for traditional uses, but make no provision for what individual farmers can grow. Authorities say they are still cracking down on large-scale cocaine trafficking.
India: Bridge fall kills 40
More than 40 people are feared dead after a bridge collapsed while under construction, police said Saturday as hope faded for finding survivors. Rescuers had recovered the bodies of 12 workers from the site in Rajasthan state by Saturday, and they feared that the 30 others still missing could be dead, the area’s inspector general of police said. Hundreds of workers were clearing debris from the site of the bridge being built across the Chambal River near the town of Kota, 170 miles west of Jaipur, the state capital.
D.C.: Pipe bursts at airport
Officials at Reagan National Airport have evacuated part of a terminal and closed a baggage claim area after a broken pipe caused flooding. A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said the flooding Saturday was ankle deep in the terminal C baggage claim area. An official said about 400 to 600 people were waiting for flights when the flooding started and were rerouted to another terminal. The water was turned off about two hours later.
Arizona: Feds seize drug cash
Seizures of money bound for Mexico’s violent drug cartels more than quadrupled this year on the Arizona border, and government officials are crediting beefed-up screening at checkpoints. Inspectors intercepted $1.1 million heading into Mexico in 2008. This year, they netted $4.9 million. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman said the seizures reflect a new focus in the smuggling clampdown, though the amount confiscated is just a fraction of the millions of dollars in drug- profits funneled back to Mexican syndicates each year.
California: 2nd skull found
Investigators have found a second human skull in a national forest close to where hikers discovered the first on Christmas Eve. A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman said Saturday it’s unclear if there’s any connection between the two skulls. Detectives and coroner’s investigators came across the second skull in Angeles National Forest Saturday morning in a search of the area where on Thursday hikers found a skull with a bullet hole in it. Officials said the second skull showed signs of some form of trauma.
From Herald news services