World

Hurricane Felix did not do as much damage as expected Tuesday when it struck the Caribbean coast of Central America, but officials in Nicaragua and Honduras warned that even as a weaker tropical depression, the storm could dump up to 25 inches of rain and trigger flooding and mudslides. With hurricane Dean last month, Felix's arrival marked the first time two Category 5 Atlantic storms made landfall in the same year.

Three leaders from the refugee camps in Sudan's Darfur region gave visiting UN Secretary- General Ban Ki Moon a letter Wednesday, saying they want help in returning people to their original villages. A 26,000-strong joint UN/AU peacekeeping force is now on a "good track" to help end a four-year conflict in the region, Ban said.

London's strike by subway maintenance workers was resolved, but not in time to spare commuters a second day of severely limited service on Wednesday. About 2,000 union members were expected to quickly restore full service now that they've received assurances on job security and pensions.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who reshuffled his cabinet last week in an effort to avoid scandal, faced calls Wednesday that his newly appointed environment minister resign over a fresh financial embarrassment involving misreported funds.

For the time being, Israeli leaders said they've ruled out a broad ground offensive in response to ongoing Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office indicated, however, that it would consider cutting off electricity to the impoverished area and will continue pinpoint strikes against rocket squads.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted during a 1999 coup, said he will return home next week and will challenge President Pervez Musharraf's bid to extend his rule by possibly sharing power with another exiled former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Mihalj Kertes, a former key aide to Slobodan Milosevic, went on trial in Serbia Wednesday, charged with illegally transferring millions of dollars under orders from the late president. Milosevic died last year while in the custody of the UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia.

After years of paying protection money to Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, business leaders have rallied behind a well-known construction boss who's told the mob he's no longer going to cooperate, according to BBC News. A local business organization has voted to expel any member who continues to pay the Mafia's "tax." which is an enormous drain on the local economy.

Italy's Cultural Ministry named opera star Luciano Pavarotti the first recipient of the Excellence in Italian Culture Award Tuesday. The famous tenor began singing at Milan's La Scala opera house more than 40 years ago. Due to physical problems, he's made no public appearances since July 2006.

On a North Sea oil-drilling platform in Dutch waters, electronics giant Philips is testing green-hued lighting designed to be less distracting to birds, according to Physorg.com. Brighter lights can disorient some 60 million birds migrating to warmer climes, causing them to circle aimlessly.

Ko San, an artificial-intelligence expert, was selected Wednesday to become South Korea's first person in space. Next April, he'll join two Russian cosmonauts on a mission to the International Space Station. Ko's assignment will make South Korea the 35th country to send an astronaut into space.

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