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VATICAN CITY: Pope keeps using open car

Pope Francis is forgoing the bulletproof popemobile for his trip to Brazil, further evidence that he has no qualms about tweaking the Vatican's security operations for the sake of getting closer to the faithful. The Vatican said Wednesday that Francis will use the same open-topped car he does around St. Peter's Square for Rio de Janeiro, where he arrives Monday for the weeklong World Youth Day festival.

ITALY: Ship captain's trial begins

The court trying the captain of the Costa Concordia heard grim details Wednesday about how the 32 victims of the shipwreck drowned, some after diving or falling into the sea from the capsized cruise liner when lifeboats were no longer accessible. Capt. Francesco Schettino is the sole defendant in the trial, being held in a theater in the Tuscan town of Grosseto. He is charged with manslaughter, causing the January 2012 shipwreck off the Tuscan island of Giglio, and abandoning ship with hundreds of passengers and crew still aboard.

YEMEN: Al-Qaida No. 2 killed by drone

The Yemen-based branch of al-Qaida confirmed on Wednesday that the group's No. 2 figure, a former Guantánamo Bay prisoner, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. The announcement gave no date for the death of Saudi-born Saeed al-Shihri, who had twice before been reported dead, reports the terror group denied. His killing is considered a major blow to Al-Qaida in The Arabian Peninsula.

JORDAN: Arab League on Kerry's side

Israel and the Palestinians are nearly ready to resume stalled peace talks but have some particulars to work out, Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting with Arab leaders, said Wednesday, as he won an important Arab endorsement of terms for peace talks that fall short of long-standing Palestinian demands. The Arab League backed Kerry's efforts to begin a new round of talks without many of the conditions set by the Palestinians.

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