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April 3, 2013 at 10:42 PM
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At least 54 dead in Argentine flooding

BUENOS AIRES, April 3 (UPI) -- Flash floods fueled by torrential rains has killed at least 54 people in Argentina this week, authorities said Wednesday .

The New York Times reported officials said thousands of homes were destroyed and 250,000 people were without power in Buenes Aires alone.

Most of the deaths -- 48 -- were reported in La Plata, 30 miles from Buenos Aires, which was soaked by a foot of rain fell in just a few hours on Tuesday night. Thousands were evacuated and some families found themselves trapped on the roofs of their homes, the Times said.

The rains were expected to keep falling through at least Thursday, the Times said.

For Buenos Aires, it was the second most intense rainstorm in more than 100 years, prompting Mayor Mauricio Macris to cut short a vacation and immediately return to the capital, the Buenos Aires Herald reported.

Conn. lawmakers to vote on gun bills

HARTFORD, Conn., April 3 (UPI) -- The Connecticut Senate voted 26-10 Wednesday evening to toughen the gun control laws in the state devastated by a schoolhouse massacre.

Two of the body's 22 Democrats and eight of 14 Republicans voted against the measure, which was sent to the House where approval was expected later in the evening, the Hartford Courant reported. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he would sign the bipartisan bill if it reaches his desk, the newspaper said.

"This is a new and historic model for the country on an issue that has typically been the most controversial and divisive. We in Connecticut are breaking new ground today," Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said before the vote.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, whose district includes Newtown, said he and others had been working "to see what we can do to heal that community -- if we can do anything."

"What we can do to make Connecticut safer? ... I'm proud that we've done that," McKinney said.

The Maryland House also voted Wednesday to beef up that state's gun control laws.

Pope Francis popular among U.S. Catholics

WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- Pope Francis starts his papacy with overwhelming support from U.S. Catholics, a poll released Wednesday indicates.

A Pew Research Poll found 84 percent of U.S. Catholics surveyed say they have a favorable impression of the new pontiff from South America, including 43 percent expressing a very favorable view. Five percent have an unfavorable view and 11 percent had yet to form an opinion, the survey found.

That level of support puts Francis quite a bit ahead of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who drew a favorable rating from 67 percent of U.S. Catholics in July 2005, early in his papacy. Benedict eventually attained an 83-percent favorable ranking by April 2008, and it stood at 74 percent February after he announced he was retiring.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans overall feel the same way about Francis, the poll indicates, with 29 percent having no yet to form an opinion and 14 percent having an unfavorable opinion of him.

The Pew Research Center conducted its poll of 1,001 Americans by telephone March 28-31. The poll's margin of error was 3.7 percentage points for its entire sample and 8.5 percentage points for smaller samples of Catholics surveyed.

Nearly 100 arrests in Conn. drug sweep

NORWICH, Conn., April 3 (UPI) -- Nearly one hundred people were arrested in a sweep of a large-scale drug-trafficking operation in New London County, Conn., police said.

Multiple raids ending Wednesday by federal, state and local law enforcement stemmed from 15-month investigation of heroin and cocaine trafficking stretching from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to Connecticut, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Ross Feinstein, U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman, called it "a very well-coordinated law enforcement operation."

Most of the arrests were in New London County, with additional arrests in Puerto Rico, New York City, Springfield, Mass., and Providence, R.I., a law enforcement official said.

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