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  |   Nov. 24, 2012 at 8:17 AM
Tear gas disperses Thai political rally

BANGKOK, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- An anti-government rally in Bangkok that drew as many as 20,000 people dispersed Saturday after isolated clashes with police firing tear gas, organizers said.

The demonstration was organized by a group called Pitak Siam and is led by retired army Gen. Boonlert Kaewprasit. He told the demonstrators not to be lured into violence by police in riot gear, the Bangkok Post reported.

Boonlert also alleged the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had used regional officials to deter many thousands more people from attending the protest by setting up checkpoints and laying spike belts on highways to discourage traffic.

He called Yingluck Shinawatra a "puppet" for her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, now living in exile after a military coup ousted him in 2006.

As the crowds thinned, police said 37 people had received minor injuries and 132 others had been arrested, the Post said. Officers said they confiscated knives and slingshots whose apparent use was to disable security cameras around the protest site.

Sunday, parliament is scheduled to hold a confidence vote on Yingluck's government, which was elected last year.


Six new non-European cardinals named

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Six new Roman Catholic cardinals from six non-European countries were named Saturday in Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI.

The men, who range in age from 53 to 72, are from Colombia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Philippines and the United States, the BBC reported.

The pope said the 114-member College of Cardinals "presents a variety of faces, because it expresses the face of the universal Church," Vatican Radio reported.

The ceremony and mass at St. Peter's Basilica saw the new cardinals receive their red hats, robes and gold rings.

Analysts said it was unusual for a pope to select the cardinals – each of them potentially the next pope when Benedict dies – and particularly three from countries with large Muslim and non-Christian populations: India, Lebanon and Nigeria.

Only cardinals under the age of 80 are allowed to vote in the secret ceremony to name a new pope.

Benedict last named 22 new cardinals in February, 16 of them from Europe.


Gas explosion shakes Springfield, Mass.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Nov. 24 (UPI) -- A natural gas explosion gutted an adult club in Springfield, Mass., late Friday afternoon and heavily damaged a daycare center next door.

At least 18 people were injured, the Boston Globe reported. No one was reported killed and police said none of the injuries were life-threatening.

The explosion at Scores Gentlemen's Club shook the city at 5:25 p.m., about an hour after gas company workers evacuated much of the area because of a strong odor suggesting a leak. Debbie, a Scores dancer, said she was on stage when she was told to get out with just enough time to change into street clothes.

The Scores building was demolished and about a dozen others were heavily damaged, police said. The blast broke windows for several blocks around.

Victor Bruno, owner of the nearby Adolfo's Restaurant, described the blast as "just a mushroom cloud of an explosion -- big and orange.'' He said the neighborhood was relatively empty because of the Thanksgiving weekend and because restaurants and clubs in the area had not begun filling up.

The Square One daycare center was closed because of the Thanksgiving weekend, The (Springfield) Republican reported. Square One Vice President Kimberley Lee said that on a normal weekday many of the center's 100 children and 30 staff would have been on the premises at the time.

Lee said the center may have to move temporarily.


U.S. satisfaction stabilizes at 30 percent

PRINCETON, N.J., Nov. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. satisfaction stabilized with 31 percent saying they are pleased with how things are going, up from a low of 7 percent in October 2008, a survey says.

Gallup said U.S. satisfaction levels were at or above 30 percent since September and the historical average satisfaction rating since 1979 was 38 percent. Since May 2007, the percentage satisfied with the direction of the country reached 30 percent or better in only seven months -- from May through early August 2009 and in each of the last three months, from September through November.

The all-time high was 71 percent in February 1999, and the all-time low was 7 percent in October 2008, Gallup said.

Democrats were more optimistic than pessimistic about the state of the country, with 51 percent satisfied and 46 percent dissatisfied, while only 9 percent of Republicans were satisfied while 91 percent were dissatisfied. Sixty-nine percent of independents said they were dissatisfied and 29 percent satisfied.

U.S. adults surveyed rated the economy in general as the most important problem, followed by unemployment, dissatisfaction with government and the federal budget deficit. Healthcare was the only other specific issue mentioned by at least 5 percent of Americans.

The telephone poll of 1,015 adults was conducted Nov. 15-18. It has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

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