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POPE OFFERS HIS BLESSINGS -- TO NEW PARKING GARAGE

Pope John Paul II presided over the inauguration of an underground parking garage at Vatican City on Wednesday, invoking divine protection for the building, the cars and the people who will park there.Workers finished the three-story garage in time for millennial celebrations that are expected to bring tens of millions of pilgrims to Rome.

The underground garage makes Vatican City a more functional and welcoming place, without lessening the amount of green space in the city, the pope said.

KOSOVO REFUGEES RECEIVE $500,000 FROM ALLEN

A foundation set up by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is giving $500,000 to aid refugees from Kosovo.

The Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation said it will give the money to the American Red Cross for food, shelter, transportation, medicine and other services.

"This extraordinary situation requires an extraordinary response from all of us," said Jo Allen Patton, executive director of the Seattle foundation.

About 850,000 people have fled Kosovo since NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia began March 24.

SPANISH LITERATURE PRIZE GOES TO GERMAN WRITER

German intellectual Gunter Grass won the Prince of Asturias literature prize on Wednesday. He was the first non-Spanish-language writer to be considered for the award.

Grass, 72, was praised for bringing together art and social justice in his work, which includes the 1959 novel "The Tin Drum."

The award is given by the Prince of Asturias Foundation, named for Crown Prince Felipe of Spain. Grass will receive $31,000.

Grass has been outspoken in demanding that Germany liberalize its policy on granting asylum to foreigners and has criticized the government for selling weapons to Turkey in its war with Kurdish separatists.

SHOCK JOCK STERN GETS PAYBACK FROM VENTURA

Finally, a man big enough to put Howard Stern in his place.

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura did it at a New York book signing Wednesday, snubbing one of Stern's long-haired, T-shirt clad reporters by refusing to appear on the shock jock's radio program and yanking the guy's chain a little in the process.

"Why don't you come on our show, governor?" the reporter asked.

The one-time professional wrestler chastised Stern for once keeping him on hold for 20 minutes, then telling the campaigning candidate there just wasn't enough time left to put him on air.

"What goes around, comes around," Ventura said.