- - Thursday, July 12, 2012


TOKYO — Heavy rain triggered flash floods and mudslides in southern Japan, causing at least 15 deaths and leaving 11 people missing.

Television footage Thursday showed residents wading through muddy, hip-deep water on streets. Others shoveled out mud from their homes.

Local officials said damage was concentrated in Kumamoto and neighboring Oita states on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. Most victims were in their 70s and 80s.

Homes were destroyed, and tens of thousands of people had to evacuate the area threatened by swollen rivers and mudslides.

The Meteorological Agency said as much as 20 inches of rain fell overnight. It predicted up to 8 inches of rainfall through Friday.

Rescue workers and defense troops have been sent to the region to help.


U.S. man jailed for translating biography of king freed

BANGKOK — An American man sentenced to 2 1/2 years in a Thai prison for translating a banned biography about the country’s king and posting the content online has been freed by a royal pardon, the U.S. Embassy said this week.

Joe Gordon was convicted in December for translating excerpts of the book, “The King Never Smiles,” from English into Thai. The punishment was a high-profile example of the severe sentences meted out here for defaming Thailand’s royal family, an issue that has raised concern about freedom of expression in the Southeast Asian kingdom.

No reason was given for the pardon, but U.S. officials have pressed Thai authorities to release the Thai-born American since he was first detained in May 2011.


New Catholic bishop leaves church governing body

BEIJING — The government body that controls the Catholic Church in China says it is investigating the selection of a bishop who cut his ties to the group as soon as he was ordained, in an embarrassment to Beijing that could deepen its rift with the Vatican.

Shanghai’s auxiliary Bishop Ma Daqin announced that he was leaving the Catholic Patriotic Association at the end of his ordination ceremony Saturday, saying he wished to devote himself fully to his duties as bishop.

The move marked the biggest public challenge to Beijing’s control over the Catholic clergy in years. The Vatican does not recognize the Catholic Patriotic Association, and says the Chinese church should take its orders directly from Rome.

Bishop Ma’s announcement was greeted with applause by hundreds of worshippers in Shanghai’s Cathedral of St. Ignatius, the seat of one of China’s largest, wealthiest and most independent dioceses. But he has not been seen since.

Bishop Ma, 44, reportedly was being held in isolation at a seminary. The Shanghai diocese said he had applied for and received permission to go into retreat beginning Sunday.

The Patriotic Association issued a two-sentence statement late Wednesday saying it was investigating violations of regulations in the selection of bishops in relation to Saturday’s ordination.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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