Ferry capsizes in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines - An overcrowded ferry capsized just short of its destination in rough seas in the northeastern Philippines, causing terrified passengers to leap into the sea, officials said yesterday. At least 23 people drowned.

Thirty-three others are still missing after the wooden hull Maejan, traveling from Calayan islands in the Luzon Strait, encountered strong waves and currents Sunday evening.

The eight-hour journey to buy Christmas food and other supplies turned into the country's latest sea accident after the boat flipped over about half a mile from its destination in Aparri, police said. Coast guard and navy vessels, backed by helicopters, were searching for the missing, but bad weather hampered the effort.

- AP

Turks sorry for Armenian deaths

ANKARA, Turkey - A group of about 200 Turkish intellectuals yesterday issued an apology on the Internet for the World War I-era massacres of Armenians in Turkey.

The group of prominent academics, journalists and artists avoided using the contentious term

genocide

in the apology, using the less explosive

Great Catastrophe

instead.

The apology is a sign that many in Turkey are ready to break a long-held taboo against acknowledging Turkish culpability for the deaths. Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in what is regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey does not deny that many died but rejects the term

genocide

.

- AP

Hungary repeals couples law

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Hungary's Constitutional Court says it has annulled a law giving rights to domestic partners because it would diminish the importance of marriage.

The law, passed by Parliament a year ago, would have allowed unmarried or gay couples to register their domestic relationships beginning Jan. 1. The court says the new law is unconstitutional because it would give unmarried heterosexual couples practically the same rights as married ones, "downgrading" the institution of marriage.

At the same time, the court said, a law allowing domestic partnerships for gay couples would not be unconstitutional, as long as it applied only to them and not to heterosexual couples, as well.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Officials in Rome

closed Nero's Golden Palace to the public after days of heavy rain filled the monument with mud and damaged the electrical system. No decision was made on when it would reopen. The sumptuous "Domus Aurea" was built in the first century A.D.

Russian warships

will visit Cuba for the first time since the 1991 Soviet collapse. The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko will arrive in Havana on Friday, a navy spokesman said.

A U.S. anti-kidnapping

expert was abducted in northern Mexico last week, a sign of how bold Mexico's kidnapping gangs have become. Felix Batista was in Saltillo to offer advice on how to confront abductions for ransom when he was abducted.