Cuba eases strain on some inmates

HAVANA - Cuba has begun transferring some of the country's 200 political prisoners to jails closer to home, the first sign the government is making good on a deal with the Roman Catholic Church to improve conditions behind bars.

Jail authorities contacted the family of dissident Felix Navarro to tell them that he would be moved from the maximum-security Canaleta prison in Ciego de Avila to a facility closer to his home in Matanzas, 235 miles to the northwest, human-rights leader Elizardo Sanchez said Tuesday.

At least seven prisoners were in the process of being moved closer to their homes, according to reports from Roman Catholic Church officials, human-rights leaders, and relatives who said they had spoken with jail authorities. "This could be the starting gun," said Sanchez, who heads the Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

The transfers came 10 days after church officials announced an agreement that would see the government move some "prisoners of conscience" to jails closer to their homes and allow long-demanded medical treatment. - AP

Labor chief eyed for German post

BERLIN - Germany's labor minister is an early favorite for the presidential nomination, a day after President Horst Koehler's surprise resignation, according to an official quoted by a local news agency Tuesday.

Ursula von der Leyen would become the country's first female president if nominated by Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government and then approved by lawmakers. The new head of state has to be elected by June 30.

Von der Leyen, 52, is a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union. The mother of seven has served in Merkel's cabinet since 2005 and is considered a pragmatist. The president has a largely ceremonial job but traditionally functions as the nation's moral voice. - AP

Venice wants bats to fight a menace

ROME - Venice wants its citizens to attract bats in a bid to battle a tiger mosquito infestation in the lagoon city. Officials Tuesday launched a campaign urging Venetians to buy or build "bat boxes" and install them high in trees or on the side of exterior walls of homes.

Venice officials say each bat could devour 3,000 mosquitoes a night and could combat the insects especially on the Lido, where accumulations of rainwater in gardens and other greenery serve as breeding grounds.

Although Venice is crisscrossed by canals, mosquitoes aren't attracted to the lagoon's brackish waters. Tiger mosquito bites can leave itchy, swollen welts, and the insects can spread diseases such as chikungunya fever. - AP

Elsewhere:

The mayor of Cancun was charged with drug-trafficking ties Tuesday, forcing him to end his campaign for governor in a scandal that has shaken Mexico's state elections set for July 4. A federal judge indicted Gregorio Sanchez on charges of organized crime and money-laundering a week after he was arrested in Mexico's most important tourist resort.