'Pippi Longstocking'creator dies at 94
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Popular children's writer Astrid Lindgren, creator of the braided, freethinking Pippi Longstocking, died today. She was 94.
Reaching into her childhood memories of the Swedish countryside, Lindgren wrote more than 100 works, including novels, short stories, plays, song books and poetry.
Her most popular character was freckled Pippi Longstocking, with her unmistakable red hair and mismatched stockings.
Lindgren died in her sleep at her Stockholm home after several days of illness, said Lennart Frick, the husband of Lindgren's longtime secretary.
Citizenship applicationfee will increase
LOS ANGELES -- The price for becoming a United States citizen is about to increase.
Beginning Feb. 19, those applying for citizenship will have to pay $310, a $60 increase from the previous year. It is the second increase in three years, and some immigration advocates have expressed frustration at the rising costs.
"It was already a lot of money," said Ana Maria Noriega, a caseworker from the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation.
Officials with the Immigration and Naturalization Service said the increase was approved to help the agency quicken the application process.
In the past, applicants have waited at least 30 months before their application was completed, said Tony Leu, an INS spokesman. In recent years, the agency has reduced the waiting period to one year. Leu said the additional funds could make it as quick as four months.
Group to endhunger strike
SYDNEY, Australia -- Groups of asylum seekers being held in Australian detention centers agreed today to remove stitches from their lips and to abandon a five-day hunger strike.
Also, four children pulled out of what their lawyer said was a suicide pact between mostly Afghan children without parents or guardians at the remote Woomera detention center in the Australian Outback.
Yet refugees at other detention centers across Australia joined the hunger strikes, with 16 immigrants at the Port Hedland detention center and four at the Curtin camp in Western Australia state refusing food, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs said today.
About 370 detainees are on hunger strike at Woomera, including some children, according to refugee lawyers, but the government said the total is 259. Most are Afghans, and dozens have sewed their lips together.
The protesters want the government to speed up their asylum claims and move them out of Woomera.
Today, the detainees said some people would remove stitches from their lips out of respect for the Immigration Detention Advisory Group, which is trying to solve the crisis.
Sailor missingfrom aircraft carrier
SAN DIEGO -- Navy aircraft and ships searched Sunday for a missing U.S. sailor serving on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Southern California.
The sailor was discovered missing Saturday morning on the USS Abraham Lincoln. A search of the ship failed to locate him, said Cmdr. Jack Papp, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The Lincoln, based in Everett, Wash., had been taking part in routine battle group exercises about 90 miles west of San Diego.
The sailor was assigned to Carrier Air Wing 14, based at Naval Air Station LeMoore, about 280 miles northeast of San Diego.
His family has been notified, but his name was being withheld until efforts to find him have been exhausted, Papp said.
Bible smuggler getstwo years in prison
BEIJING -- A Hong Kong businessman who brought thousands of Bibles to a banned Christian group in China was sentenced today to two years in prison, the court said.
Lai Kwong-keung, 38, was convicted by a court in the southeastern Chinese city of Fuqing of "illegal operation," the court said, without elaborating on what that charge meant. Hong Kong news reports said it referred to running an illegal business. About 40 people protested outside the courthouse and one was taken away by police, the court said.
The case is awkward for China, which is trying to crush independent religious activity but doesn't want to disrupt a visit next month by President Bush. He publicly expressed concern about Lai and asked the State Department to look into the case.