Puerto Rico

US agency rejects island's link to illness

SAN JUAN - A U.S. agency has issued a long-awaited report saying it found no proof that decades of military practice bombing on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques sickened residents who blame it for high rates of cancer, asthma and other illnesses.

The report was released this week and follows four previous assessments and several updates by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that reached similar conclusions.

The Navy occupied the island's eastern and western areas in 1941-2003, using it for warships and aircraft to practice firing live bullets, artillery rounds, rockets, missiles and bombs, according to the report.


Independence vote set for Sept. 2014

LONDON - Voters in Scotland will head to the polls in September 2014 to decide whether to go it alone as an independent country or remain in Great Britain with England and Wales.

The referendum could lead to the biggest political shake-up in the British Isles since Ireland achieved independence nearly a century ago. The referendum will ask: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" A victory for the "yes" side would dissolve a sometimes happy, sometimes rocky political marriage sealed in 1707.


Kurdish rebel leader calls for cease-fire

ANKARA - In a major step toward ending one of the world's longest, bloodiest insurgencies, the Kurds' jailed rebel leader called Thursday for a "new era" of peace that includes an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of thousands of his fighters from Turkey.

Abdullah Ocalan's rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has been waging a nearly 30-year battle against the Turkish government, seeking autonomy and greater rights. The fight has killed tens of thousands of people, and the group is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its Western allies, including the United States.

The Turkish government reacted cautiously, but Ocalan's announcement at a Kurdish spring festival was met with joy from the hundreds of thousands who gathered to hear it in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.


Report: Gay suspects tortured in prison

Suspected homosexuals in Cameroon say they have been tortured and raped in prison, according to a report released Thursday by Human Rights Watch and three local organizations.

The 55-page report, titled "Guilty by Association," documents reported abuses by authorities prosecuting suspected gays and lesbians. Those convicted can face up to five years in prison in Cameroon.

Cameroon's Justice Ministry has acknowledged that human rights abuses have occurred but did not issue a specific response to the allegations in Thursday's report.


Zoo shows off 4 white tiger cubs

BUENOS AIRES - The Buenos Aires zoo is displaying four new white tiger cubs.

Zoo officials say the blue-eyed cubs with coats of black stripes on white were born there two months ago and bring the number at the zoo to nine. They say the cubs will soon be able to eat meat.

White Bengal tigers have a rare genetic anamoly and have always been extremely rare in the wild. Several hundred white tigers have been bred in zoos and wild animal parks around the world.


Vigilante mob kills alleged car thief

CAIRO - Villagers in Egypt's Nile Delta killed a man suspected of trying to steal a car Thursday in the country's latest incident of vigilante violence, dragging him half-naked and bloody as they kicked and hit him with sticks and fists before tying him to a tree to bleed to death, witnesses and officials said.

A string of vigilante attacks has raised worries in Egypt over the crumbling of law and order and weakening institutions, with the justice minister recently warning that the attacks threaten the "death of the state." Egypt has seen at least a dozen such attacks the past two years as people take the law into their own hands amid an enduring breakdown in security since the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Wire reports