Notorious Belfast attacker sentenced

DUBLIN, Ireland - Belfast's most notorious extremist received a 16-year sentence yesterday for mounting an attempt to kill Catholic politicians in a televised one-man attack on the Northern Ireland legislature.

Britain revoked Michael Stone's parole for earlier convictions after his botched November 2006 attack on the Northern Ireland Assembly. Yesterday's sentence means Stone, 53, faces consecutive jail terms exceeding 30 years.

Stone was convicted last month on nine counts, including an attempt to murder Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, who were present in the legislature. In 1988, he launched an attack on an Irish Republican Army funeral, killing three. A year later, he was convicted of six murders for other attacks on the Catholic minority.

- AP

U.N.: In N. Korea, 40% need food aid

SEOUL, South Korea - Nearly 40 percent of North Korea's population will need food assistance in the next year, largely because of critical shortages of fertilizer and fuel, U.N. food agencies said yesterday.

The impoverished communist country has relied on foreign assistance to feed its people since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the mid-1990s.

The World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said production was down for the third year in a row, leaving 8.7 million people out of North Korean's total population of 23 million - or 38 percent - in need of food assistance in the coming year.

- AP

Pontiff prays for jobless, struggling

ROME - Pope Benedict XVI prayed yesterday for those who lost jobs or were struggling to pay bills as Rome's holiday season began with a traditional appearance by the pontiff near the Spanish Steps.

Thousands of Romans and tourists crowded into the square near Rome's posh shopping streets to hear Benedict pray near a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Benedict said he was asking the Virgin Mary to help families struggling to make ends meet and those who could not find work or who have just lost their jobs. He said he hoped those suffering would feel the "warmth of God's love."

- AP

Elsewhere:

A Mexican Learjet

plunged into a lake in Mexico, killing two pilots in the second deadly crash in a month involving a federally owned plane. Sunday's crash came after Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino and 14 others were killed when a Learjet 45 plowed into a Mexico City neighborhood.

Madagascar

officials

say a deadly and incurable crop disease has spread widely in the island's main vanilla-producing area. Most of Madagascar's vanilla is exported to the United States, where it is used for making confectionaries, soft drinks and ice cream.

French police

arrested the suspected military chief and "No. 1 member" of ETA, a blow to the banned Basque group just weeks after his predecessor was caught, officials said. The man was identified only as "Balak."