Environment and nature
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has made an amateur video praising the world's "cartoneros" — the poor people who pick through garbage to find recyclable and reusable goods. He says their work is dignified and good for the environment.
Francis recorded the video Dec. 5 while meeting with members of the Excluded Workers' Movement of his native Argentina, which released the video this week at an annual meeting of trash recyclers.
ROME - As Naples is gripped by fears of a Mafia-tainted food chain, Italy's top organized crime-fighter has some more worrisome news: The Camorra syndicate's mobsters have expanded their multibillion-euro toxic-waste disposal racket to the holiday paradise Tuscany and beyond Italian borders to eastern Europe.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - For visitors to Isle Royale National Park, nothing beats the spine-tingling thrill of a wolf's howl piercing an otherwise silent night — or a glimpse of the wily beast slipping across a forest path. But such experiences are becoming increasingly rare, and before long may disappear forever.
BIG SUR, Calif. - A late fall wildfire that has destroyed more than a dozen homes and forced about 100 people to flee the scenic Big Sur region overlooking the Pacific Ocean was nearly three-quarters contained Wednesday.
Calm winds helped crews as they closed in on the Pfeiffer Fire in Los Padres National Forest near state Highway 1.
As of Wednesday evening, the fire had consumed about 1 1/3 square miles and was 74 per cent contained, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Lynn Olson said.
MIAMI - Florida wildlife officials say a man tried to trade a live alligator for beer at a Miami convenience store.
State Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino says the man received a citation for illegally capturing and trying to sell the gator.
Pino tells WTVJ-TV (http://bit.ly/18THij3 ) that the man trapped the 4-foot-long gator at a nearby park and brought it to the store Dec. 10. When he proposed to trade the animal for a 12-pack of beer, the store clerk called authorities.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Weary Alaskans woke up to another big dump of snow on Thursday, adding to what already has been the snowiest period on record in Anchorage and causing more headaches in coastal areas struggling to dig out.
The snow started falling shortly before midnight, and meteorologists warned Anchorage residents the heaviest snowfall — up to 16 inches — could come later Thursday.
JOHANNESBURG - South African rangers say they have found eight dead rhinos that had been stripped of their horns, an unprecedented one-day toll.
Reynold Thakhuli, South African National Parks spokesman, said rangers found the rhinoceros carcasses Tuesday at two sites in Kruger, the country's flagship national park.
Thakhuli said Wednesday, "This is the first time that we've had so many in one day, and it's really a concern for us."
NAIROBI, Kenya - The world's newest snake has menacing-looking yellow and black scales, dull green eyes and two spiky horns. And it's named after a 7-year-old girl.
Matilda's Horned Viper was discovered in a small patch of southwest Tanzania about two years ago and was introduced last month as the world's newest known snake species in an issue of Zootaxa.
DUJIANGYAN, China - Six pandas bred in captivity wandered into an enclosed nature preserve in their native central China on Wednesday, a step toward eventually being reintroduced to the wild.