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BP reports oil progress amid tar discovery

KEY WEST, Fla., May 18 (UPI) -- Twenty tar balls found on a beach in Key West, Fla., are being tested to determine if they came from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, officials said.

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The tar balls, ranging in size from 3 inches to 8 inches, were found along the shore of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday night.

Meanwhile, BP oil company officials said Tuesday a 4-inch diameter tube placed in one of the leaks was operational and estimated to be carrying about 2,000 barrels of oil a day to the surface for collection on a ship.

Other containment options continued to be explored, including injecting heavy fluids into the well to stem the flow of gas and oil, BP said in a statement.

Scientists were in disagreement on whether oil from the spill had entered a powerful ocean current known as the loop current, which potentially could spread oil to the Florida Keys, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

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BP said it was awarding grants to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to help promote tourism in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Florida was to receive $25 million and Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana $15 million each.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he would use the money "to spread the word that Florida's beaches are clean, our fish are biting and the Sunshine State is open for business."


Suicide bomber kills at least 18 in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 18 (UPI) -- A powerful car bomb exploded Tuesday near a military convoy in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing at least 18 people, including six coalition forces, officials said.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blast, which overturned a heavy military truck, and destroyed other military and civilian vehicles in a Kabul street near the city's historic presidential palace, witnesses told The Washington Post.

The attack occurred as an explosives-laden vehicle approached an International Security Assistance Force military convoy, the ISAF said on its Web site.

Media reports said between 47 and 60 people were injured. The explosion occurred near a registration center for Afghan army recruits, CNN said.

"ISAF strongly condemns the attack on civilians and ISAF forces," ISAF spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz said. "This sort of desperate brutality and aggression reminds us of the pessimism of an enemy who seek to kill the innocent and to stop the progress necessary for a better Afghanistan."

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The dozen Afghan civilians who died in the blast apparently were passengers on a public bus driving near the convoy when the explosion occurred, officials said. The bus was destroyed.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the attack wouldn't affect the alliance's commitment to "protect the Afghan people and strengthen Afghanistan's ability to resist terrorism."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who recently visited Washington, also condemned the attack.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the attacker was able to "destroy five foreign vehicles and damage one more," CNN reported.

The attack came as coalition forces prepared for a campaign next month in southern Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban.


Medvedev, Yanukovych ink accords

KIEV, Ukraine, May 18 (UPI) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed pacts with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, but a possible natural gas merger remains thorny, officials said.

Medvedev, visiting Kiev for two days, signed agreements concerning border demarcation, aerospace, interbank cooperation and cooperation between intelligence services, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Tuesday. However, officials said they expected difficulties in talks on natural gas after Ukrainian officials were less than enthusiastic about a proposal by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to merge Gazprom and Naftogaz, the countries' main state energy holdings.

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Speaking to reporters after Monday's talks, Medvedev said mutual trade should be worth $35 billion in 2010 and should increase to $100 billion in a year, RIA Novosti said.

Whether Medvedev and Yanukovych will discuss a Gazprom-Naftogaz merger remained unclear, RIA Novosti said. Yanukovych has said Kiev would participate in a merger only on fully equal terms.

The Ukrainian leader said no energy deal would be reached during Medvedev's visit but Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller indicated talks on melding the companies would continue.

About 80 percent of Russia's gas exports to Europe are delivered by Ukrainian pipelines. Gazprom twice in the past four years cut supplies to Ukraine because of pricing disputes.

Also Monday, Medvedev and Yanukovych lit oil lamps at a memorial to the Holodomor famine in the 1930s, which observers said was noteworthy because pro-Western former President Viktor Yushchenko angered Russian officials by demanding the famine be recognized as genocide by Soviet leader Josef Stalin.


Rep. Souder admits affair, resigns seat

WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., fresh off a primary win two weeks ago, will resign his seat effective Friday, admitting he had an affair with a female staffer.

"I have sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff," Souder said in a statement. "In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain."

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"I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process," he said.

Fox News broke the news that Souder, who represents the Fort Wayne area, had a sexual liaison. Souder was elected in 1994 as part of part of the Republican congressional sweep in the midterm election during former President Clinton's first term.

Because "the error is mine," Souder said he alone bears responsibility, but was thankful for "a loving family" and "a loving God."

Fox News said its sources "indicated that the extent of the affair would have landed Souder before the House Ethics Committee."

"I am so sorry to have let so many friends down, people who have fought so hard for me," Souder said, adding that, by stepping down, his affair cannot be used as a "political football."

He said he would focus on repairing his marriage and earning back the trust of his family, friends and community.

How Souder will be replaced on the ballot is up to Republican Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has some leeway on whether to call a special election, The Washington Post said. However, within 30 days of the Souder vacancy, precinct officials of the counties in his district must meet to select a replacement.

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Man commits suicide after cleaver attack

FOSHAM, China, May 18 (UPI) -- A 20-year-old man wielding a cleaver killed one woman and injured five others before committing suicide, police in China's Guangdong province say.

The attack began when a man identified only as Xie hacked a woman outside a restaurant in the Nanhai district of Fosham, China Daily reported Tuesday.

The man then rushed into a crowded market and injured five other women before jumping from the fourth floor of a nearby residential building.

Local media said the man used to work in a factory in town.

One witness to the attacks told police the man was neatly dressed and seemed normal.

The witness said it appeared the attacker didn't know his victims since there was no conversation prior to the incident.

A 30-year-old woman who was struck in the neck died less than 24 hours after the Sunday night attack.

Police are trying to determine a motive.


Malawi judge convicts same-sex couple

BALANTYRE, Malawi, May 18 (UPI) -- A gay couple face 14 years in prison after being convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts by a court in the African nation of Malawi, officials say.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, have been jailed since December when they were arrested while celebrating their engagement, the BBC reported Tuesday.

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A judge convicted the two men of having homosexual relations, which he said was "against the order of nature."

Homosexual acts are outlawed in Malawi but several international organizations have been urging the country to relax its stance.

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