Pope to Koreas: Avoid 'fruitless' shows of force
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Pope Francis called Thursday for renewed efforts to forge peace on the war-divided Korean Peninsula and for both sides to avoid "fruitless" criticisms and shows of force, opening a five-day visit to South Korea with a message of reconciliation as Seoul's rival, North Korea, fired five projectiles into the sea.
North Korea has a long history of making sure it is not forgotten during high-profile events in the South, and Thursday's apparent test firing off its eastern coast made its presence felt.
In the first speech of his first trip to Asia, Francis told South Korean President Park Geun-hye and government officials that peace required forgiveness, cooperation and mutual respect. He said diplomacy must be encouraged so that listening and dialogue replace "mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force."
Neither Francis nor Park referred to North Korea's firings in their public remarks. It was the first papal visit to South Korea in a quarter century.
Gay SD prep coach will keep job at private school
DELL RAPIDS, S.D. (AP) — A volleyball coach at a private Catholic school in South Dakota who has publicly announced he's gay says he's being allowed to keep his job.
Nate Alfson announced he was gay last week on the website www.outsports.com and later said he was concerned about his future with St. Mary High School. He is believed to be the first openly gay high school coach in South Dakota.
Alfson met with school officials Tuesday and later said in an email to www.outsports.com and on his Facebook page that he will not lose his job.
"The meeting with the school went great," he said in his email. "We talked about being on the same page as each other and that they were willing to walk through this with me and support me."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls issued a statement Tuesday night saying "all persons, whatever their attraction, are to be treated with respect, compassion and justice," the Argus Leader newspaper reported.
India sets age limit for Krishna birthday pyramids
NEW DELHI (AP) — India's top court said Thursday that children as young as 12 can climb atop towering human pyramids in a popular Hindu celebration that has seen deaths and injuries in past years.
Devotees celebrate the birthday of the child-god Krishna each August by forming a pyramid with the last climber, usually a child, clambering to the top to break the "dahi handi," an earthen pot filled with curd. It honors Krishna's effort to steal butter.
Hundreds of thousands of cheering people join the ceremony every year, but several children are killed, injured or disabled in falls from pyramids that can reach 40 feet high.
A court in Mumbai last week set the country's first age limit for participants at 18. The Mumbai court also said the pyramids must not exceed 20 feet.
But the Supreme Court put that ruling on hold Thursday and said children who've reached their 12th birthday can participate. It will give its final verdict in the case after hearing arguments of the petitioners, rights activists and the government.
Judge: Inmates entitled to meals during Ramadan
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that two Iowa prison inmates must be provided nightly meals and chapel time during Ramadan and allowed the same religious accommodations as other Muslims.
The inmates, Michael Williams-El and James Blair-Bey, sued prison officials in 2012 when they were at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.
Magistrate Judge Thomas Shields said in a Tuesday ruling that federal law requires the men to be able to participate in their religion. He said prison officials may prevent them from taking scented oil into cells for security reasons and are not required to replace beans with soy or other meat substitutes.
The men identify themselves as members of the Moorish Science Temple of America. In 2012, they were denied participation in Ramadan activities by the prison Imam who says their beliefs are contrary to traditional Islam.
Va. mosque vandalized; hate-crime probe sought
MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — A Muslim rights group is asking the FBI and local police to investigate whether vandalism at a Virginia mosque was a hate crime.
The Manassas Mosque on Center Entrance Drive was vandalized some time between late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Vandals sprayed orange paint on the windows and wrote an obscenity. A window and door were also damaged.
Prince William County Police say the damage itself does not indicate a hate crime, but that an investigation could uncover a hate crime if the intent of the vandals can be determined.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations asked police and the FBI to investigate whether a hate crime occurred.
Prince William County Police were offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.