Pope receives feeding tube
In another sign of Pope John Paul II's growing frailty, the Vatican said Wednesday that the 84-year-old pontiff was getting nutrition from a tube in his nose and acknowledged his convalescence from throat surgery last month has been "slow."
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said John Paul was fitted with a nasogastric tube to "improve the calorie intake" and help him recover his strength.
The statement was issued shortly after the pope tried unsuccessfully to speak to the crowds in St. Peter's Square for the second time in a week. After managing just a rasp of his voice, he blessed well-wishers by making the sign of the cross with his hand and withdrew from his window.
A nasogastric tube is common in people requiring supplemental nutrition. The tube is threaded down the nose and throat into the stomach and liquid food is fed through it. While uncomfortable, no sedation or surgery is required. The patient can eat and speak with the tube in place.
Palestinian gunmen go on shooting spree
Palestinian militants fired Wednesday at Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank headquarters while he was in the compound, but he was not injured, security officials said.
Later, the 15 gunmen -- who said they belong to an armed group linked to the ruling Fatah movement -- went on a shooting rampage throughout the city of Ramallah, damaging several restaurants and forcing shops to close, witnesses and officials said.
Internal fighting has plagued the Palestinian territories for months, largely the result of a breakdown in authority and command caused by more than four years of fighting with Israel that severely debilitated the security forces and other Palestinian Authority institutions.
Quake survivor rescued from rubble
Firefighters freed a man trapped in a crumpled house on remote Nias island on Wednesday, 36 hours after he was buried in rubble. As the first foreign military help arrived, officials said an estimated 1,000 people had died in the region's latest large earthquake.
Later, a magnitude-6.3 quake was reported off the west coast of northern Sumatra, the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., said. The quake, which occurred about 19 miles underground, was in the same region as Monday night's temblor. There were no immediate reports of a tsunami warning being issued or of any casualties or damages.
U.S. air base unaffected by revolt
Kyrgyzstan's new government has assured the Pentagon that it will allow a U.S. air base to remain and that its foreign policy will not change, a senior general said Wednesday.
"Our folks do not feel threatened," said Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, during an interview at the Pentagon. "... There are no indications whatsoever that our relationship will change."
Ganci Air Base is 19 miles northwest of the capital, Bishkek, where protesters stormed the presidential headquarters last week and forced longtime leader Askar Akayev to flee. An opposition government has taken hold and is working to restore order.
About 800 U.S. personnel are stationed at the base, which serves as a logistical hub for U.S. operations in Afghanistan.
Also Wednesday, acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told the ousted president to stay away from the country for now, warning that Akayev could cause more unrest if he returned and that the government could not guarantee his safety.