Sighs of relief greet cyclone

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh - Cyclone Mahasan weakened Thursday afternoon into a tropical storm and then dissipated, causing far less damage than had been feared as it passed over Bangladesh and spared Myanmar almost entirely, meteorological officials said.

At least 45 deaths related to Mahasen were reported in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but officials had prepared for a far greater storm. Bangladesh evacuated one million people from coastal areas, and the United Nations warned that 8.2 million people could face life-threatening conditions.

The cyclone lost power as it shed huge amounts of rainfall and then veered west of its predicted path, sparing major Bangladeshi population areas, said Mohammad Shah Alam, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

Coastal regions were also spared major damage because the storm hit during low tide. "Thank God we have been spared this time," local government administrator Ruhul Amin said. - AP

Osaka's mayor standing firm

TOKYO - An outspoken mayor who outraged many with remarks about Japan's wartime and modern sexual services stood by his comments Thursday, but said he may have lacked "international sensitivity."

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said his lack of sensitivity to America's perception of prostitution might have caused outrage after his suggestion earlier this week that U.S. troops based in southern Japan should patronize legal adult entertainment establishments to reduce sex crime there.

Hashimoto, co-leader of an emerging nationalist party, also has angered Japan's neighbors by saying that the military's wartime practice of forcing Asian women into prostitution was necessary to maintain discipline and provide relaxation for soldiers.

He claimed Thursday that the practice was widely used by many other countries during World War II. The U.S. State Department called Hashimoto's comments "outrageous and offensive."

- AP

Viking artifacts found by teen

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Danish museum officials say that an archaeological dig last year has revealed 365 items from the Viking era, including 60 rare coins.

Danish National Museum spokesman Jens Christian Moesgaard said Thursday that the coins have a distinctive cross motif attributed to Norse King Harald Bluetooth, who is believed to have brought Christianity to Norway and Denmark.

Sixteen-year-old Michael Stokbro Larsen found the coins and other items with a metal detector in a field in northern Denmark. Stokbro Larsen, who often explores with his detector, said friends find him "a bit nerdy." - AP