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FRANCE: Assembly OKs gay nuptials

After months of philosophical debate and mass street demonstrations for and against, the National Assembly authorized same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples Tuesday, defying France's long history of Roman Catholic tradition. The legislation, passed 329 to 229 with 10 abstentions, was qualified as France's most far-reaching social change since abolition of the death penalty in 1981. The measure is 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, making same-sex marriage the law of the land despite warnings that it undermines the foundations of French society. "This is a vote of pride," said Thierry Mandonof the Socialist bloc, "the pride of permitting the Republic to take a giant step toward equal rights and complete a battle of 30 years."

BRAZIL: 4 die in Carnival float fire

Tragedy overshadowed Carnival festivities in the port city of Santos, where a fire on a float killed four people and injured five others Tuesday. The float struck a power line and burned, killing three people pushing the float and a woman spectator. In Rio, revelers danced until dawn on Tuesday as samba schools held their annual sequin-drenched parade competitions at the city's Sambadrome.

RUSSIA: 18 killed in mine explosion

An underground methane gas explosion killed up to 18 miners at a coal pit in northern Russia. President Vladimir Putin dispatched his disasters minister to the scene to oversee rescue efforts. Rescue workers said they had brought 10 bodies to the surface at the Vorkutinskaya mine, owned by large Russian steel company Severstal, in the icy Komi region and were trying to recover eight others. About 250 people had been at the pit at the time of the blast, 2,600 feet below the surface, but most had escaped or been rescued.

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