ULAN BATOR, Mongolia

Biden praises country’s transition to democracy

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden tried his hand at archery, watched a wrestling match and named a horse during a brief visit Monday in Mongolia, which he called a shining example of democratic development.

Biden praised Mongolia for successfully carrying out presidential and parliamentary elections after making a peaceful transition to democracy in the early 1990s. The small, landlocked country had been a Soviet satellite for decades.

“In the last 20 years Mongolia has captured the imagination of the world by its remarkable transition to democracy,” Biden said.

Later in the day, Biden sat under a traditional Mongolian tent with Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold and other officials as they watched performances in traditional dance and throat singing performances.

He tried his hand at using a traditional bow and arrow and watched a wrestling competition. As he presented an award to the hefty winner, Biden struck a wrestling pose, eliciting laughter. Biden was also presented with a Mongolian horse, which he named “Celtic” in remembrance of his Irish roots, though the horse bucked as the vice president tried to get near.

Biden also praised Mongolia’s military contribution in Afghanistan and Iraq after meeting Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold and President Tsakhia Elbegdorj.

Mongolia is eager to develop its mineral wealth but needs outside help, with companies from neighbors China and Russia, as well as from the United States, Australia, Japan and Canada looking to develop projects.

SAMANA, Dominican Republic

Hurricane hits Puerto Rico with heavy rain, winds

Hurricane Irene cut a destructive path through the Caribbean on Monday, raking Puerto Rico with strong winds and rain and then spinning just north of the Dominican Republic on a track that could carry it to the U.S. Southeast as a major storm by the end of the week.

Irene slashed directly across Puerto Rico, tearing up trees and knocking out power to more than a million people, then headed out to sea north of the Dominican Republic, where the powerful storm’s outer bands were buffeting the north coast with dangerous sea surge and downpours.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the Category 1 storm was expected to strengthen during the next two days, and could be near major hurricane strength by the time it tracks over the central Bahamas.


Google to put rain forest images on Street View maps

Google says it will soon make available images of the Amazon rain forest on its Street View mapping service.

Spokesman Fabio Sabba says Google began taking photographs of Amazon rivers and trails in a partnership with a local environmental group called Fundacao Amazonia Sustentavel.

Sabba said Monday Google is expected to conclude the image-taking process in about three weeks.

There is no timetable for the Amazon images to become available to the public.


Books stolen by Nazis will be returned by Berlin library

Berlin’s Central and Regional Library says it will return books the Nazis stole from the Social Democratic Party, including an English-language copy of the Communist Manifesto.

The copy dates from 1883 and is believed to have belonged to Friedrich Engels, who penned the original German work with Karl Marx in 1848.

The library said Monday the work is one of some 70 to be returned to the party on Aug. 31.

The Social Democratic Party was banned in 1933 after Hitler came to power.

Activists from the party continued to oppose the Nazis. Many were persecuted or killed for their activities.


Activists from Greenpeace get suspended sentences

A Danish court on Monday handed two-week suspended sentences to 11 Greenpeace activists who gatecrashed a climate summit banquet in Copenhagen two years ago.

The activists unfurled a banner at a December 2009 banquet of world leaders after gaining access to the building in a limousine equipped with a false police light that joined vehicles en route to the venue.

The Copenhagen City Court found the protesters guilty of trespassing, falsifying a license plate and impersonating a police officer. The Greenpeace Nordic office in the Danish capital, which planned the stunt, was fined $14,500.

The activists included demonstrators from Spain, Switzerland, Norway and Netherlands.