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SYDNEY - Britain's Prince William and his wife, Kate, visited a town ravaged by wildfires in the mountains west of Sydney on Thursday, as they continue their Down Under tour. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stopped in the Blue Mountains town of Winmalee to meet with firefighters and locals affected by wildfires that swept through the region last year, destroying more than 200 homes. William and Kate also visited a Girl Guides hall, where they planted a tree, and later took in the sweeping views of the mountains.
Rain, melting snow and ice jams forced waters in parts of Eastern Canada to rise Wednesday, submerging roads, filling basements and prompting hundreds to be evacuated from their homes as officials told people to prepare in case they had to seek higher ground. From Atlantic Canada to Ontario, rivers overflowed and in some cases, water levels rose to heights some said they hadn't seen in years. Many roads were flooded and in New Brunswick, the RCMP urged people not to attempt driving through those areas. "It's devastating," said Marc Thorne, mayor of the southern New Brunswick town of Sussex, where dozens of homes were flooded, including his own where has lived for 22 years.
By Aileen Wang and Adam Rose BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economy is doing better than official data suggests, the Commerce Ministry said a day after figures showed growth at an 18-month low, adding that targets for exports and imports this year should be met despite some caution over the trade outlook. Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said a rise in export deliveries, a customs department poll of exporters and growth in trade in individual provinces all showed that the economy was in good shape.
NEW YORK, N.Y. - The move by New York City's new police commissioner to disband a unit that spied on the everyday activities of Muslims could be just the first step in a dismantling of some of the huge post-9-11 intelligence-gathering machinery built by his predecessor. Among other anti-terror programs that are getting a hard look from Commissioner William Bratton is a unit that stations NYPD officers in foreign cities such as London, Paris, Tel Aviv and Amman, Jordan. Over the past few years, Bratton's predecessor Ray Kelly and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg vehemently defended what has become the nation's largest intelligence-gathering, anti-terrorism operation outside the federal government, saying the lack of any major attack on the city since 9-11, and the lowest overall crime rate in a generation, are proof it is working. But Bratton and his allies say the unit-by-unit review of the NYPD's intelligence and counterterrorism operations is necessary to eliminate possible inefficiencies, better deploy resources and respond to criticism that the department has trampled on civil rights.
CHICAGO - Walter Unbehaun has spent nearly all of his adult life behind bars, so it's not surprising that he awaits sentencing for yet another crime, a bank robbery last year. Unbehaun's reason for robbing the bank is surprising, though: He was homesick for prison. The 74-year-old Unbehaun showed a Chicago-area bank teller a revolver in his waistband and told her softly over and over, "I don't want to hurt you." He drove to a nearby motel with more than $4,000 in loot and waited for police to arrive. Confronted by police in the motel parking lot, Unbehaun dropped his cane, raised his hands and startled the officers by his apparent joy at getting nabbed.
(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve indicated to Citigroup Inc that the bank would get more time to fix certain "stress test" planning problems before rejecting its capital plan last month, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people close to the company. The Fed had agreed to give Citigroup a 2015 deadline to address a series of shortcomings identified by the regulator in the wake of the 2013 test, the report said.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday wades into Argentina's multi-billion dollar legal fight with bond investors who turned down two debt restructuring offers after the country's 2002 default. The relatively narrow case that the nine justices are due to hear concerns whether the investors can force banks in New York with which Argentina does business to disclose information about the country's non-U.S. assets as the investors seek repayment. A bigger case, in which Argentina is challenging a court judgment ordering it to pay $1.33 billion to the so-called "holdout" bond investors or face a potential default if it refuses to do so, waits in the wings. Argentina has been battling for a decade with the bondholders led by hedge funds NML Capital Ltd, a unit of billionaire Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp, and Aurelius Capital Management.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A plant explosion and fire killed one person and left three injured Wednesday, emergency authorities said. The plant is located on a property where several businesses have federal licenses for ammunition and explosives, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman Michael Knight. "The explosion did considerable damage to the facility," said Odell Poyner, director of the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency. He said he didn't know who owned the building but he believed that the property it sits on belongs to Accurate Energetic Systems, a company whose website identifies it as a manufacturer of explosives for the defence and aerospace industries.
MOKPO, South Korea - Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for 287 passengers still missing a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea. Nine people, including five students and two teachers, were confirmed dead, but many expect a sharp jump in that number because of the long period of time the missing have now spent either trapped in the ferry or in the cold seawater. There was also fury among families waiting for word of passengers who were mostly high school students. There were 475 people aboard, and some of the frantic parents of the 325 student passengers who had been heading to Jeju island for a four-day trip gathered at Danwon High School in Ansan, which is near Seoul, and on Jindo, an island near where the ferry slipped beneath the surface until only the blue-tipped, forward edge of the keel was visible.
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he will spend $50 million this year on new group that will mix campaign contributions with field operations aimed at pulling gun-control supporters to the polls in the November midterm elections and beyond. His new organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, plans to mobilize voters to back candidates and ballot measures supporting such causes as enhancing background checks for gun buyers, according to a news release. "This new organization will bring more people into the fight against gun violence, which affects every town in America," Bloomberg said in a statement Wednesday. Everytown aims to sign up one million new supporters this year, said the group's president, John Feinblatt.
MEXICO CITY - Few outsiders dare venture after dark into Tepito, a neighbourhood known as Mexico City's main clearinghouse for contraband ranging from guns and drugs to counterfeit sneakers. But a theatre project led by one of Mexico's best-known actors has been taking middle-class audiences into the lives of Tepito residents in recent weeks in an attempt to show the human side of the gritty area blighted by poverty and crime. The small company led by movie star Daniel Gimenez Cacho has offered the experience known as "Safari in Tepito" since mid-March. "The play helped me see there are good people in Tepito, there are kind people, people struggling to improve their situation," said Christian Pimental, a 24-year-old who works in marketing and lives in a middle-class neighbourhood.
PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland officials are once again preparing to flush millions of gallons of treated water because someone urinated in a city reservoir. Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff said 38 million gallons will be discarded after a 19-year-old was videotaped in the act Wednesday. Three years ago, the city drained a 7.5-million-gallon reservoir at the same Mount Tabor location in southeast Portland.
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Chelsea Clinton says she's happy right now with her elected representatives â€” but might come for their jobs if that changes. Clinton, 34, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, told Fast Company that she has always denied any interest in running for office. Besides, said Clinton, a Manhattan resident, "I live in a city and a state and a country where I support my elected representatives."