Pope Francis drew a record six million people as he celebrated mass in the rain-swept Philippine capital Sunday, a triumphant finale to an Asian tour in which he championed the plight of the poor. Francis made an exhilarating entrance to a Manila bayside park for the mass aboard a "popemobile" that was styled after the nation's iconic, flamboyant and much-loved "jeepney" minibus. The Philippines is famed as the Catholic Church's bastion in Asia, with 80 percent of the former Spanish colony following the faith. "I cannot fathom the faith of the simple people," Francis said, according to the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who acted as the pontiff's chaperone.
By Howard Schneider DALTON, Georgia (Reuters) - Barack Obama enters the final two years of his presidency with a blemish on his legacy that looks impossible to erase: the decline of the middle class he has promised to rescue. The revival of middle-class jobs has been one of Obama's mantras since he took office in 2009 fighting the worst economic crisis in generations. Obama's administration can take credit for stabilizing the U.S. economy, which is growing again and last year added jobs at the fastest clip since 1999. Federal Reserve survey data show families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office.
By Colleen Jenkins ROCK HILL, S.C. (Reuters) - Fifty-four years after nine young black men became the first U.S. civil rights protesters to serve jail time for sitting at an all-white lunch counter, surviving members of the group will return to a South Carolina courtroom this month to be exonerated of their crimes. They say the push to clear their names so long after the Jan. 31, 1961, sit-in in Rock Hill will have little effect on their lives. Author Kimberly Johnson, who published a children's book about the Friendship Nine last year, began to seek vindication for the men after reading what Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in 1963 while he was jailed for demonstrating against discrimination of African Americans. Johnson said she was struck by the similarity of the nonviolent approaches by King and those of the Friendship Nine, most of whom were attending Friendship College when they agreed to risk arrest at the McCrory's five-and-dime store's lunch counter.
By Philip Pullella and Rosemarie Francisco MANILA (Reuters) - Pope Francis said a huge open-air Mass for a rain-drenched crowd of millions in the Philippine capital on Sunday, after appealing to the world to "learn how to cry" over the plight of poor, hungry, homeless and abused children. City officials said some 4 million people were in Manila's Rizal Park and more in surrounding areas to witness the event that caps Francis's week-long trip to Asia. The 78-year-old Pope, wearing a transparent yellow poncho over his white cassock, was driven through the ecstatic crowd in a "popemobile" modified from a jeepney, the most popular mode of transport in the Philippines. He stopped often along the route to kiss children and bless religious statues on the day the Philippines celebrates the feast of the infant Jesus.
By Daniel Wallis DENVER (Reuters) - Bill Cosby thanked hundreds of fans who turned out for shows in Denver on Saturday as a small gathering of protesters outside the theater denounced the comedian, who has been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women in the past three months. The star of NBC hit 1980s family sitcom "The Cosby Show" denies the allegations, many of which are decades old and fall outside the statute of limitations for criminal or civil cases. His lawyer has called the claims "discredited" and "defamatory." Cosby has never been charged over any of the allegations. Outside the Buell Theatre in downtown Denver, about 40 protesters chanted "No more jokes!" and some pointed and shouted "Shame on you!" and "Rape supporters!" at ticket holders as they lined up to get in for the first of two shows.
Five people were killed and churches set on fire in Niger on Saturday in fresh protests against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo's Mohammed cover, as France condemned the violence and defended freedom of expression. With France still reeling from last week's attacks that claimed 17 lives, jittery European countries stepped up security, with soldiers patrolling the streets of Belgium for the first time in 35 years. Around 1,000 youths wielding iron bars, clubs and axes rampaged through the Niger capital, hurling rocks at police who responded with tear gas. "In Niamey, the tally is five dead, all civilians," Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou said in a speech broadcast on state television, as he appealed for calm.
CBS Sports basketball analyst Greg Anthony has been suspended indefinitely by the network, a CBS spokesperson said on Saturday, a day after he was arrested in Washington, D.C., on a charge of soliciting prostitution. "Greg Anthony will not be working again for CBS this season," the spokesperson said in an email. "I will work to regain the trust that I have lost, and the first step is saying that I am sorry." Anthony played 11 seasons in the National Basketball Association before joining CBS in 2008 as lead studio analyst for the network's college basketball coverage, according to his network biography. He had been scheduled to work CBS' broadcast of the Michigan State-Maryland basketball game in College Park, Maryland, on Saturday.