French find explosives
GAO, Mali -- French soldiers on Wednesday recovered an enormous stash of explosives authorities believe radical Islamic fighters were using to make bombs for attacks on northern Mali's largest city, a Malian military spokesman said.
Meanwhile, officials in the capital said the army captain behind a coup last year that paved the way for radical Islamic militants to take over the north will be tasked with reforming the military.
France has said it intends to eventually hand over its mission to oust the Islamists to the Malian military and other African soldiers. The move is likely to heighten international concerns about whether Mali's army is up to the task.
Malian military spokesman Daouda Diarra said the French military removed some 800 kilograms of explosive materials from a house in Gao. The find raised further fears jihadists could be preparing to stage devastating attacks on civilian centres.
The explosives had been discovered several days earlier, and the team had returned to the site in the morning, Diarra said.
French military officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Biggest ferris wheel OK'd
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Dubai's ruler has approval a $1.6-billion island-development project that would be home to what's billed as the world's biggest ferris wheel.
The project reflects a renewed appetite in Dubai for extravagance as the economy rebounds from a debt-driven slump during the past three years.
The official WAM news agency said Wednesday the Ferris wheel -- dubbed the Dubai Eye -- will stand 210 metres, exceeding the London Eye's 135 metres. Construction is set to begin this year.
Dubai has proposed a series of mega projects reminiscent of its boom years before the downturn hit in 2009. The projects include theme parks and a satellite city named for Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashin Al Maktoum.
Carnival nixes cruises
HOUSTON -- Carnival Cruise Lines has cancelled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before it was left powerless in the Gulf of Mexico by an engine-room fire.
The company's announcement on Wednesday came as the Triumph was being towed to a port in Mobile, Ala., with more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have complained to relatives that conditions on the ship are dismal and they have limited access to food and bathrooms.
The ship will be idle through April. Two other cruises were called off shortly after Sunday's fire.
Debbi Smedley, a passenger on a recent Triumph cruise, said the ship had trouble on Jan. 28 as it was preparing to leave Galveston. Hours before the scheduled departure time, she received an email from Carnival stating the vessel would leave late because of a propulsion problem. Passengers were asked to arrive at the port at 2 p.m., two hours later than originally scheduled.
The ship did not sail until after 8 p.m., she said.
Pastor wants snakes back
MIDDLESBORO, Ky. -- An eastern Kentucky pastor wants Tennessee wildlife officials to return five venomous snakes confiscated in Knoxville.
Gregory Coots, who's known as Jamie Coots, is pastor of at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro. Coots handles snakes as part of worship services.
He told WYMT-TV he bought three rattlesnakes and two copperheads in Alabama on Jan. 31. While he was driving through Knoxville, police stopped Coots for dark-window tinting and saw the cages containing the snakes. A state wildlife officer confiscated them.
Coots is charged with illegally possessing and transporting wildlife.
Coots was similarly charged in Kentucky in 2008. He said he now has a permit for snakes in Kentucky.
Looking for alien life
MADISON, Wis. -- Some U.S. scientists are helping search for evidence of alien life not by looking into outer space, but by studying rocks right here on Earth.
Some of the rocks are up to 3.5-billion years old. The scientists are looking for crucial information to understand how life might have arisen elsewhere in the universe and guide the search for life on Mars one day.
"There's a story always hidden in rocks," said geoscientist Clark Johnson. "...It's up to (geologists) to be clever enough to find the tools that we need to interrogate those rocks to find what story they preserve."
-- from the news services