Taking it easy Elian joins youth group in Cuba

The Cuban boy at the center of an international custody battle eight years ago has joined Cuba's Young Communist Union.

Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde quotes Elian Gonzalez as saying he will never let down ex-President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro, who succeeded Fidel earlier this year.

Now 14, Elian was 6 when Miami relatives lost their fight to keep him in the United States and he was returned to Cuba in mid-2000 with his father.

Elian had survived a boating accident off the Florida coast that killed his mother, who was attempting to get to the U.S.

Juventud Rebelde says in its Sunday edition that the boy was among 18,000 people who joined the group on Saturday. Associated Press

Wildfires dying down, residents returning

Improved weather on Sunday helped crews tamp down several Northern California wildfires that had destroyed dozens of homes and led thousands of residents to evacuate.

Evacuation centers began shutting their doors as many of the 9,000 residents who fled from in and around the Butte County town of Paradise returned Sunday to see the damage.

At least 74 homes were destroyed and 20 others were damaged in the Paradise area, about 90 miles north of Sacramento.

The blaze had charred about 36 square miles, said Scott Upton, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Associated Press

Bishop to check on action of gay priests

London's bishop said Sunday he would order an investigation into whether two gay priests exchanged rings and vows in a church ceremony, violating Anglican guidelines. The priests walked down the aisle in a May 31 service at one of London's oldest churches marked by a fanfare of trumpets and capped by a shower of confetti, Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported.

Britain officially recognizes civil partnerships but the Church of England's guidelines say clergy should not bless such unions. Associated Press

Thinking about immigration pays off

An Oregon man is the winner of this year's Great American Think-Off, a national philosophy competition that gives ordinary people the chance to debate some of life's perplexing questions.

This year's question: “Does immigration strengthen or threaten the United States?”

Craig Allen, of West Lynn, Ore., won a gold medal Saturday after a live audience in New York Mills decided he was most convincing when arguing that the system of immigration and immigration policy is broken. He says it encourages an influx of illegal immigrants and poses a threat to the country.

The debate is held by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization. Associated Press

55 dead, 7 missing in flooding in China

At least 55 people have died and seven are missing in flooding across a broad stretch of southern China, state media reported Sunday.

More than 1.2 million people have been forced to flee their homes across nine provinces, including Sichuan, which is still reeling from last month's earthquake that killed almost 70,000 people, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Associated Press