CUBAN PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER GETS US VISA: HAVANA (AP) — Cuban first daughter Mariela Castro has been granted a U.S. visa to attend events in San Francisco and New York, sparking a firestorm of criticism from Cuban-American politicians who called her an enemy of democracy and a shill for the Communist government her family has led for decades.
The trip, which kicks off next week when Castro is due to chair a panel on sexual diversity at a conference organized by the Latin American Studies Association, is among several to the United States by prominent Cubans, some with close links to the government. Cuban academics, scientists and economists now frequently attend seminars in the United States, and Cuban artists and entertainers are also finding it easier to visit the U.S. due to an easing of travel restrictions by President Barack Obama's administration.
Castro, 50, is a noted advocate of gay rights and head of Cuba's National Center for Sex Education. She has pushed for the island to legalize gay marriage for years, so far without success. She recently praised Obama's stance in support of same sex marriage, and said her father, President Raul Castro, also favors such a measure, though he has not said so publically.
COLORADO WILDFIRE GROWS AMID ERRATIC WIND GUSTS: FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — Hundreds of firefighters worked Thursday to combat a growing blaze scorching terrain around a scenic canyon in northern Colorado.
Ground efforts are being supported by a heavy air tanker and helicopters that together are capable of dropping thousands of gallons of fire retardant and water on the spreading flames.
U.S. Forest Service officials said the blaze about 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins grew from about 1.5 square miles to more than 11 square miles Thursday amid erratic winds gusts of up to 50 mph.
Authorities ordered mandatory evacuations of about 80 homes near Poudre Canyon earlier in the day, even going door to door to issue warnings.
Residents of about 65 of those homes were allowed to return by early evening, with instructions to be ready to leave again if conditions change.
POLICE OFFICER FEARED FOR LIFE IN PEPPER SPRAYING: RIVERSIDE (AP) — Grand jury transcripts released this week reveal that a Beaumont police officer feared for his life when he pepper-sprayed a woman in the face, causing her permanent blindness.
Officer Enoch Clark said he was three feet from an argumentative woman who may have been driving drunk when he sprayed her.
A dashcam video shows him shooting the high-powered pepper spray gun at 32-year-old Monique Christina Hernandez from less than a foot away.
The pepper spray sliced her right eye in half, fractured her orbital bone and severely damaged her left eye's optic nerve. She is permanently blind.
Clark is charged with four felonies, including assault by a police officer, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
6 SHOT, 3 DEAD, IN WEST LOUISVILLE NEIGHBORHOOD: LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Three people were killed Thursday after a chaotic shooting scene that had crowds running for cover in a crime-ridden section of Louisville.
Two men — Tyson Mimms, 24 and Craig Bland Jr., 22 — were killed Thursday afternoon in a shooting that attracted dozens of onlookers anxious for answers in the city's Russell neighborhood, which is dotted with boarded-up houses.
As police investigated and a host of media gathered nearby, shots rang out about four houses down. Makeba Lee, 24, was killed after she was shot by a woman who had gotten into an argument with her about the incident, police said