Meteorite fragments hit Siberia; 950 hurt
MOSCOW, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A hail of meteorite fragments hit Russia's Chelyabinsk region Friday, injuring at least 950 people, officials said.
The meteorite, which weighed about 10 tons, broke through the atmosphere around 9:20 a.m., traveling at a speed of 33,000 mph, ITAR-Tass reported.
At least 750 of the injured were in the city of Chelyabinsk, Der Spiegel reported.
Early reports indicated most of the injuries were caused by broken glass and flying objects.
A state of emergency was declared.
A spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations told The New York Times the meteorite broke apart and fell in several places.
"I saw a flash in the window, turned toward it and saw a burning cloud, which was surrounded by smoke and was going downward," said Maria Polyakova, 25, of the Park-City Hotel in Chelyabinsk, 90 miles east of Moscow.
Gas supplies were cut off to hundreds of homes as a safety precaution and about 20,000 emergency response workers were called out, RIA Novosti reported.
Lavrov: Rebels should drop Assad demand
MOSCOW, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Syrian rebels should abandon demands for President Bashar Assad to resign before they begin peace talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Lavrov said Assad has made it clear he will not step down and demands for him to do so will only result in more violence, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Friday.
"Either we have to want to save lives and ... forget about who is responsible for the time being, and to bring all of them to the negotiating table, or we don't care about lives and care about [Assad's] fate," Lavrov said in an interview with German broadcaster ARD.
Lavron, conceding reforms offered by Assad were inadequate, said the president was offering a dialogue the rebels should accept because they have not offered any alternatives.
"The only thing which is uniting the opposition is toppling the regime," he said. "In almost two years [the opposition] never produced any constructive platform."
Rebels are acting against the government in parallel "with quite a number of terrorists groups," Lavrov said.
Rebels with al-Qaida-linked fighters said they had nearly full control of an oil-rich northeast region Friday, the third big gain claimed by them this week.
Bus moving Triumph passengers breaks down
MOBILE, Ala., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A busload of passengers still reeling from their experience on the Carnival Triumph were delayed in returning home after the bus broke down, officials said.
A caravan of chartered buses was hired by Carnival to transport passengers from Mobile, Ala., after the ship docked Thursday, but at least one of those buses became stranded somewhere on the way to New Orleans, CBS News reported
The bus incident was yet another trial for passengers who had spent days stranded at sea aboard the ship that passengers described as being filled with sewage and rotten food.
Carnival Chief Executive Officer Gerry Cahill apologized Thursday to the passengers.
"We pride ourselves in providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case," he said.
The passengers had left the Port of Galveston in Texas on Feb. 7 for what was to be a four-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. An engine fire Sunday left the vessel without power and propulsion.
Passengers and crew members spent five days living and sleeping on sewage-soaked carpets and open decks, with food so limited some passengers said they were reduced to eating candy and ketchup on buns.
Grocers pledge tests in horse meat scandal
LONDON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Chief executives of Britain's largest grocery stores issued an open letter promising to test the food they sell after beef was found tainted by horse meat.
The letter, signed by Philip Clarke of Tesco, Andy Clarke of Asda Stores, Justin King of J Sainsbury and Dalton Philips of Wm Morrison Supermarkets, was published Friday in response to Prime Minister David Cameron's criticism of supermarkets for keeping consumers in the dark about a horse meat scandal crisscrossing Europe, The Daily Telegraph reported.
"We can't accept a situation where the trust customers place in us is being compromised by fraudulent activity or even, as alleged, an international criminal conspiracy," the letter said.
"That is why we are acting together with the Government and the Food Standards Agency, not only to get to the bottom of how this has happened but to take whatever steps are necessary to reassure customers that they can trust the food they buy.
"We are working around the clock to complete the most comprehensive testing of processed beef products ever undertaken, anywhere in the world."
Cameron said Thursday retailers should have explained to the media how horse meat ended up on their shelves.