Quake death toll nearing 40,000

BALAKOT, Pakistan - The death toll from Pakistan's earthquake rose sharply to nearly 40,000 Saturday, with the president warning the numbers could jump still higher as relief teams reach more villages in the endless folds of the Himalayan mountains.

Homeless survivors searched desperately for blankets and tents to brace against plunging temperatures. The suddenly frigid weather in some hard-hit areas was an ominous sign that winter was fast approaching - with thousands of villagers still cut off from any aid whatsoever a week after the magnitude 7.6 quake hit the region.

Anti-terror push causes unease in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia's government Saturday tried to calm fears that plans to strengthen an anti-terror law in the wake of the latest Bali bombings would mark a return to the days when security forces acted against civilians with virtual impunity.

Muslim leaders and rights groups say they fear the measures, including a greater role for the military in anti-terrorist operations, harked back to the time when former dictator Suharto used the army to stifle dissent.

The Oct. 1 blasts at three crowded restaurants on Bali island were the fourth time in three years that terrorists with suspected links to al-Qaida have attacked Western targets in Indonesia.

Catholic bishops reaffirm celibacy

VATICAN CITY - Rejecting any change to celibacy for priests, bishops from around the world suggested dioceses share clergy and step up recruiting to cope with a priest shortage that makes it difficult for many Roman Catholics to attend Mass regularly, the Vatican said Saturday.

The 250 prelates attending the Oct. 2-23 Synod of Bishops have drawn up an initial set of proposals to vote on in the coming week and present to Pope Benedict XVI for his consideration in a future document.

Youth festival draws 100,000

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI hosted his first youth festival Saturday in St. Peter's Square, drawing about 100,000 children and their parents to an afternoon of singing and break-dancing reminiscent of the gatherings inspired by the late Pope John Paul II.

Children in yellow and red T-shirts leapfrogged over one another on the steps of St. Peter's as the late-afternoon ceremony got under way.

Benedict extended the invitation to children who had made their First Communion in 2005, the year John Paul set aside to celebrate the Eucharist.

- From wire reports