Children wearing traditional Chinese hats climb between a pair of statues on display at a shopping district in Beijing. Playtime happened Thursday.



Woman marries killer of her twin sister

BUENOS AIRES - This was a Valentine's Day wedding that the bride's family wanted no part of: An Argentine woman married the man convicted of killing her twin sister.

Neighbors were against it as well. A mob gathered outside the civil registry office where Thursday's wedding took place, throwing stones and eggs.

The bride, 23-year-old Edith Casas, says Victor Cingolani is innocent of killing her twin sister, Johana, more than two years ago, despite his conviction and 13-year prison sentence. The groom says he is innocent and will be absolved on appeal.

They both want to have children, but that will have to wait. Cingolani, 28, was taken back to prison immediately after the nuptials.

The bride's mother thinks she's crazy and sought to block the wedding, but a judge found her capable of making her own decisions.


UN rights officials urge judge's freedom

CARACAS - Human-rights officials from the United Nations called on the government of Hugo Chavez on Thursday to free a judge who has been charged with corruption, abuse of authority and aiding an inmate's escape.

Margaret Sekaggya, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on the situation of human-rights defenders, joined other U.N. officials in the appeal for Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who is currently under house arrest.

Afiuni infuriated Chavez in 2009 when she freed a banker from prison while he was awaiting trial on charges of flouting currency exchange controls. A day after Afiuni's arrest, Chavez said on television that she should face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. She insists she is innocent. The U.N.'s special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez, criticized Venezuelan authorities for failing to investigate Afiuni's allegations that she was raped in the infirmary of a women's prison where she was being held in 2010.

Venezuelan officials have rejected the judge's rape-related allegations.


Valparaiso fights fire, its worst in 2 decades

SANTIAGO - A forest fire that engulfed a hill in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso destroyed at least 70 homes and forced the evacuation of more than 500 families, officials said on Thursday.

Chile's emergency office, ONEMI, issued a red alert after the blaze broke out on San Roque hill in the city 75 miles northeast of the capital, Santiago.

Strong, changing winds and high temperatures at the peak of the Southern Hemisphere's summer holiday season stoked the fire. Valparaiso Regional Gov. Raul Celis called it "the city's worst blaze in two decades."


Avalanche kills 2 in Scottish Highlands

LONDON - An avalanche in the Scottish Highlands killed two people and left a third in critical condition, police said Thursday.

Emergency services responded to reports of an avalanche in the Cairngorm Mountains that occurred around midday Thursday.

Police said a man and a woman who were airlifted from the Chalamain Gap area of the Cairngorms to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary were pronounced dead.

Another man, who was flown to the same hospital, remained in critical condition, police added.

Mountain rescue teams participated in the search, along with search and rescue dogs and the Royal Air Force.


French journalist freed from detention

PARIS - A French journalist detained in Iraq last month was freed Thursday, France's Foreign Ministry said. Media-freedom activists and France's government decried the detention.

Nadir Dendoune was detained in Baghdad on Jan. 23 for allegedly taking photos in restricted areas without necessary permits.

A French diplomatic official said journalist Nadir Dendoune left Iraqi custody Thursday and the French ambassador took him to the French Embassy in Baghdad. The French government said Dendoune's assistant, Haqi Mohammed, was also freed.

The Associated Press