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Cowen crash boy escapes jail

A TEENAGER has been spared a custodial sentence for travelling in a stolen car which crashed into a Garda Special Branch vehicle escorting former Taoiseach Brian Cowen last November.

The boy, aged 16, had pleaded guilty earlier at the Dublin Children's Court to travelling as a passenger in a stolen vehicle in Dublin on November 18 last.

Judge John O'Neill sentenced the boy to a three-month probation bond.

A 17-year-old west Dublin teenager, who denies being the driver of the car, is currently awaiting trial.

Chavez is in control -- allies

Allies of President Hugo Chavez assured Venezuelans that the leftist leader is firmly in control of the country and improving after emergency surgery in Cuba, in comments meant to dampen speculation about his health.

Pro-Chavez politician Cilia Flores told state television that Mr Chavez "is fulfilling all of the responsibilities" under the constitution, and said she had spoken to him earlier in the day.

"He's energetically giving us instructions," she said.

Huge asteroid loops Earth

An asteroid with an estimated girth as large as a rubbish truck soared within 7,500 miles of the Earth as it passed harmlessly over the Atlantic Ocean, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The space rock, measuring five to 20 metres in diameter, followed the same near-Earth path that scientists had earlier predicted, looping around the planet in a boomerang-shaped trajectory yesterday, JPL spokesman DC Agle said.

Corrie's Kym backs Michelle

Coronation Street star Kym Marsh has defended new arrival Michelle Collins after soap fans criticised her northern accent.

Former EastEnder Collins (50) arrived on the cobbles earlier this month as Stella Price, the new manager of the Rovers Return.

Marsh (35) currently on maternity leave, said: "I think viewers are finding it hard to accept because she was such a big character in EastEnders and they still see her as Cindy Beale, which is not fair."