French advance gay marriage bill
After months of debate and street protests for and against, the French National Assembly on Tuesday authorized same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples, despite France's long history as a homeland for Roman Catholic tradition. The legislation was passed 329-229 with 10 abstentions. The measure is scheduled to be taken up in April by the Senate, where the ruling Socialist-led coalition enjoys a majority and is likely to confirm the lower-house vote. The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Argentina, Canada and South Africa have authorized gay marriage.
Castro describes pains of aging
Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro complains of a bad knee, weak eyesight and difficulty adjusting to changes in light in a lengthy interview published in island newspapers. The 86-year-old praises election officials for building a new entrance to his polling place, meaning he doesn't have to climb stairs. He spoke with local reporters Feb. 3 when he voted in national election, and the transcript was published Tuesday. Castro stepped aside as president in 2008, handing power to his younger brother Raul.
Major water loss in Middle East
An amount of freshwater almost the size of the Dead Sea has been lost in parts of the Middle East due to poor management, increased demands for groundwater and the effects of a 2007 drought, according to a NASA study. The study, to be published Friday in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, examined data over seven years from 2003 from a pair of satellites. Researchers found reserves in parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins had lost 117 million acre feet of its total stored freshwater, the second-fastest loss of groundwater storage after India.