South Africa

Mandela making 'dramatic progress'

JOHANNESBURG - Nelson Mandela has made "dramatic progress," and may be going home "anytime soon," his daughter Zindzi said on the eve of his 95th birthday.

"I visited him yesterday and he was watching television with headphones," she said in an interview with Britain's Sky TV. "He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand. … He responds with his eyes and his hands."

Mandela is gaining "energy and strength," said his daughter. "I should think he will be going home anytime soon."

The latest description by Zindzi - one of Mandela's daughters by his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela - is a significant improvement from court documents filed by the family earlier this month that said he was on life support and near death.

Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital since June 8, and officials say his condition is critical but stable.

The news of the improvement in Mandela's health will boost his supporters in South Africa and around the world who are preparing to celebrate his 95th birthday today, a day declared by the United Nations as a way to recognize the Nobel Prize winner's contribution to reconciliation.

Interest in Nelson Mandela International Day has ignited as a result of the former South African president's hospitalization in Pretoria.


Ghastly Web video results in charges

TORONTO -Police have charged the owner and operator of a website that hosted a gruesome video of a murder and dismemberment last May.

Edmonton homicide detectives said Wednesday that they have charged Mark Marek, 38, with corrupting morals.

Luka Magnotta is accused of killing his Chinese lover, Jun Lin, last May and filming a video that shows him stabbing and having sex with the dismembered corpse. He has pleaded not guilty in the slaying. Marek has been remanded and will appear in bail court today.

19 laid off for now after oil-train wreck

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec - The company that owns a train that derailed in Quebec says it is temporarily laying off 19 employees in the province because the track is unusable.

A union representing employees at the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway said Wednesday that the company has laid off 17 workers and two managers from its 75-person workforce in Quebec.

A train carrying crude oil derailed July 6 and exploded, triggering a blaze that engulfed much of Lac-Megantic's downtown core, killing 50 people. The disaster left the track unusable.

A company official said it intends to rehire the employees when the line is reopened.


Queen signs off on same-sex marriage

LONDON - Queen Elizabeth II gave final approval Wednesday to Britain's controversial same-sex marriage bill, bestowing her royal assent as is common to all new laws.

The measure passed its final legislative hurdle on Tuesday when the House of Commons approved the bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in religious and civil ceremonies.

Previously, gay and lesbian couples could enter into civil partnerships that carry almost the same rights as marriage. About 50,000 partnerships have been registered since 2005.

Under the new legislation, religious clerics of any denomination must "opt in" to offer religious weddings to same-sex couples. The Church of England is banned by law from celebrating such marriages, and several denominations still remain opposed to the idea, while others such as Quakers and liberal Jewish congregations are in favor.

South Korea

4 pilots in jet crash get psych counseling

SEOUL - The four pilots of the jet that crashed at San Francisco are being treated for psychological trauma and injuries, South Korean officials said Wednesday.

They said the pilots have been hospitalized after returning home over the weekend.

Asiana Flight 214 crashed July 6 at San Francisco International Airport, killing three and injuring dozens.

Wire reports