S.C. governor threatensto close mansion
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina Governor's Mansion may have to close because of a $150,000 shortfall in operating funds.
Republican Gov. Mark Sanford said he must either close the mansion until June 30 or raise private money to cover operating costs such as salaries for 11 employees, utility bills and food.
If the mansion is closed, Sanford's family would continue to live in the private quarters but they wouldn't have a staff and would cook their own meals.
Sanford accuses his predecessor, Democrat Jim Hodges, of overspending the mansion's budget. "There was a disregard for costs and disregard for who would be picking up the pieces after the administration left," he said.
Hodges transferred $100,000 from administrative and program funds to the mansion two days before he left office to cover the cost overruns. But Sanford said that money was intended to help children and veterans, and he won't use it for the mansion.
14 people trampledto death at pilgrimage
MINA, Saudi Arabia -- A human stampede erupted during the devil-stoning ritual at the hajj Tuesday, killing 14 people in the latest tragedy to darken the annual Muslim pilgrimage.
The ritual, where hundreds of thousands file past stone pillars representing the devil's temptations, has been the scene of lethal bottlenecks in the past.
The stampede occurred after a group of pilgrims finished the ritual and left the site as another group was entering, swelling the crowd to dangerous proportions, the Saudi Press Agency said.
"We were all focusing on the area where the three stone pillars are and did not pay much attention to areas nearby in which the incident took place," Othman al-Maymani, Mecca's health affairs director, told The Associated Press.
Aggravating the disaster, ambulances could not reach the site quickly because of a traffic jam caused by nearly 2 million pilgrims gathering in this city for the yearly pilgrimage.
BEIJING -- A priest in China's underground Roman Catholic church was detained after saying a secret Christmas Mass, a U.S. religious activist said today.
The Rev. Dong Yingmu, 37, was picked up in Baoding, a city in the central province of Hubei with a large underground church, said Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation.
Kung said Dong was detained the week of Dec. 23, though he didn't know the date. Kung said the priest has been transferred to a prison in Hubei.
"He had finished one secret Mass and was on his way to conduct another when the police detained him," Kung said by telephone from Stamford, Conn.
China allows only state-monitored worship, and underground Catholics are frequently arrested and harassed. Despite that, the unofficial Catholic church is believed to have as many as 12 million followers, compared with some 4 million for China's officially sanctioned church.
Fighting in Philippines
PIKIT, Philippines -- Philippine troops and Muslim rebels fought for a second straight day today despite a cease-fire ordered by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Each side blamed the other for failing to stop attacks.
Army spokesman Maj. Julieto Ando said guerillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front attacked a marine outpost overnight, wounding three soldiers in the village of Cudal near Pagalungan town in southern Maguindanao province. The marines responded with artillery and mortar rounds at rebel positions.
Ando said that 60 rebels and three soldiers have been killed since the fighting erupted on Tuesday, and a total of 15 soldiers were wounded. But MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the military claim, saying the rebels suffered three dead and three wounded. The figures could not be confirmed independently.
Stolen paintings found
MIAMI -- Two stolen paintings by Monet and Renoir with a combined value of nearly $7 million have been recovered by undercover police and three men charged with dealing in stolen property, authorities said Tuesday.
The paintings were taken in late December from a Naples home when the security system was turned off, according to insurance investigators.
The 1880 Claude Monet work titled "Paysage a Vetheuil" is worth $4 million. "La Place de Trinite," painted by Auguste Renoir in 1893, is valued at $2.7 million.
For three days, undercover officers tried to negotiate a sale of the paintings with the three men, who offered to sell them for $1 million, police spokeswoman Nelda Fonticiella said.
Fernando Alfaro, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Carlos Somuano were charged with dealing in stolen property and will also face federal charges, Fonticiella said.