Castro kin predicts U.S.-Cuba ties
PHILADELPHIA -- Fidel Castro's niece says she believes Cuba and the U.S. will have normal relations one day, but she doesn't know when.
Mariela Castro spoke in Spanish through an interpreter Friday in Philadelphia after visiting the city's historic Liberty Bell.
The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro is visiting the city to take part in a gay-rights conference today. She is Cuba's most prominent gay-rights activist
Initially, her bid to take part in the conference and visit Philadelphia had been denied by the U.S. State Department.
League warned after ref attacked
MURRAY, Utah -- A Utah school district has issued a formal warning to the president of a soccer league in which a referee was punched by a teen player and sent into a coma.
The Granite School District's letter says the league is in danger of having its rental agreement revoked. La Liga Continental pays to hold its games at a district middle-school field each Saturday.
The district cites Saturday's assault and previous complaints that the league didn't clean up trash and violated the ban on drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
La Liga president Mario Vasquez said Friday the team the teenager played on has been kicked out of the league, and he says the league will have security present at future games.
Italy not racist: black minister
ROME -- Italy's first black cabinet minister, who has been the target of racist slurs following her appointment last week, says Italians aren't racist, but some are merely ignorant of other cultures.
Congolese-born Cecile Kyenge held a press conference Friday to introduce herself to Italians so they could get to know her, saying: "I am black. This is important to say. I emphasize it proudly."
Kyenge's appointment as integration minister had been hailed as a big step for Italy, which has only recently had to cope with waves of immigration. But the move prompted racist taunts from xenophobic politicians and members of neo-fascist Internet groups.
Kyenge thanked her defenders. She also stressed that Italy has a long tradition of welcoming foreigners and the tradition must be upheld.
Obama nixes U.S. troops in Syria
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday he doesn't foresee any circumstance requiring the U.S. to send ground troops into Syria, even as Washington pursues more evidence about the regime's purported use of chemical weapons.
"I do not foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in Syria, American boots on the ground, would not only be good for America but also would be good for Syria," Obama said at a news conference.
The president's declaration was in line with the apparent prevailing sentiment in Washington. Even one of Obama's chief antagonists on Syria, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has said he does not advocate sending ground troops, arguing that would be "the worst thing the United States could do right now."
Obama also said he had consulted with Mideast leaders who want to see Syrian President Bashar Assad's departure and agree with his assessment that the U.S. shouldn't send ground forces.
Students get 'sun day' off
SEATTLE -- In sun-deprived Washington state, the promise of nice spring weather has prompted a small private school to give students a day off to enjoy the sunshine.
Friday will be a "sun day" of sorts for 205 students at Bellingham Christian School in Bellingham, Wash. Principal Bob Sampson announced the day off on the school's site.
Sampson said he wanted to give students a chance to enjoy the weather and re-energize. He said he surveyed parents and floated the idea with the school board before cancelling school.
Junk-food move targets governor
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Lawmakers in South Carolina are trying to keep junk food out of the governor's mansion.
State senators inserted a clause in the 2013-14 budget plan that would bar Gov. Nikki Haley's office and the governor's mansion from buying junk food with public money, whether for employee treats or entertaining.
The move was a response to state efforts to fight obesity by limiting what people can buy with money from supplemental nutrition assistance, commonly known as food stamps. Those efforts need federal approval before being implemented.
-- from the news services