Monday, March 4, 2013

Published:

Venezuela: Chavez's condition very delicate with new infection, breathing problems worsening

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A new and severe respiratory infection has put cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez in a "very delicate" state, and his breathing has deteriorated, Venezuela's communications minister announced Monday.

Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas made the announcement late Monday in a statement he read on national television, looking serious but not somber.

He said Chavez's "worsening respiratory function" was related to a weakening of Chavez's immune system related to "a new and severe respiratory infection."

Villegas said Chavez was "standing by Christ and life conscious of the difficulties he faces."

He said the socialist leader who has governed Venezuela for more than 14 years was "strictly following the program" designed by his medical team.

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Diplomats say US, China have agreed on new sanctions to punish North Korea for nuclear test

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- U.N. diplomats say the United States and China have reached agreement on a new sanctions resolution to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test.

Late Monday evening, the Security Council scheduled closed-door consultations on North Korea for Tuesday morning.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made, say the United States is expected to circulate a draft resolution to the full council at the meeting.

All 15 council members approved a press statement condemning the nuclear test and pledging further action hours after North Korea carried out its third atomic blast on Feb. 12.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country holds the council presidency this month, told a news conference Monday that a resolution on North Korea might be approved in March.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

1. WHAT CATHOLIC CARDINALS SAY IS THEIR TOP PRIORITY

Before picking a new pope, they want to know more about the alleged Vatican corruption, nepotism and cronyism that was revealed last year.

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US cardinals seek answers to allegations of Vatican corruption before entering conclave

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Cardinals said Monday they want to talk to Vatican managers about allegations of corruption and cronyism within the top levels of the Catholic Church before they elect the next pope, evidence that a scandal over leaked papal documents is casting a shadow over the conclave and setting up one of the most unpredictable papal elections in recent times.

The Vatican said 107 of the 115 voting-age cardinals attended the first day of pre-conclave meetings, at which cardinals organize the election, discuss the problems of the church and get to know one another before voting.

The red-capped "princes" of the church took an oath of secrecy and decided to pen a letter of "greeting and gratitude" to Benedict XVI, whose resignation has thrown the church into turmoil amid a torrent of scandals inside and out of the Vatican.

"I would imagine that as we move along there will be questioning of cardinals involved in the governing of the Curia to see what they think has to be changed, and in that context anything can come up," said U.S. Cardinal Francis George.

The Holy See's administrative shortcomings were thrust into stark relief last year with the publication of documents stolen from Benedict's desk that exposed the petty infighting, turf battles and allegations of corruption, nepotism and cronyism in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church.

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Republicans unveil government funding bill that would boost military readiness, protect FBI

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans controlling the House moved Monday to ease a crunch in Pentagon readiness while limiting the pain felt by such agencies as the FBI and the Border Patrol from the across-the-board spending cuts that are just starting to take effect.

The effort is part of a huge spending measure that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September -- and head off a potential government shutdown later this month.

The measure would leave in place automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon ordered by President Barack Obama Friday night after months of battling with Republicans over the budget. But the House Republicans' legislation would award the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments their detailed 2013 budgets, giving those agencies more flexibility on where money is spent, while other agencies would be frozen at 2012 levels -- and then bear the across-the-board cuts.

The impact of the new cuts was proving slow to reach the broader public as Obama convened the first Cabinet meeting of his second term to discuss next steps.

The Pentagon did say it would furlough thousands of military school teachers around the world and close commissaries an extra day each week. And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the spending cuts were causing delays in customs lines at airports including Los Angeles International and O'Hare International in Chicago.

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Natural gas bill pushed by Sen. Menendez could have aided firm where top donor invests

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Robert Menendez sponsored legislation with incentives for natural gas vehicle conversions that would benefit the biggest political donor to his re-election, the same eye doctor whose private jet Menendez used for two personal trips to the Dominican Republic, an Associated Press investigation found.

The disclosure reflects the latest intersection between the New Jersey Democrat who is the subject of an ethics inquiry on Capitol Hill and the Florida doctor involved in a federal criminal investigation.

Dr. Salomon Melgen invested in Gaseous Fuel Systems Corp. of Weston, Fla., and joined its board of directors in early 2010, according to the company's chief executive and a former company consultant. GFS, as the company is known, designs, manufactures and sells products to convert diesel-fuel fleets to natural gas. The amount of Melgen's investment is confidential under rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but a 2009 document filed with the SEC showed the company required a minimum individual investment at that time of $51,500.

Menendez was a principal supporter of a natural gas bill from 2009 through 2012 that would boost tax credits and grants to truck and heavy vehicle fleets that converted to alternative fuels. The bill stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, and after it was revived in 2012, the NAT GAS Act failed to win the needed 60 votes to advance.

While the bill was under consideration between 2009 and 2011, the former consultant for GFS spent $220,000 lobbying Menendez's staff and other congressional and federal officials on the act's provisions as well as other regulatory issues, according to interviews and Senate records.

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Bush, in new book, says he opposes path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush writes in a new book that the nation needs to completely overhaul its immigration policies but cautions against providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a position that puts him at odds with some Senate reformers within his own party.

In "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution," Bush writes that the immigration debate holds serious consequences for the nation and members of his Republican party, calling fellow Republicans "remarkably tone-deaf when it comes to courting Hispanic voters -- to the extent they court them at all." If the GOP fails to change, he says the influence of Hispanic voters "will doom" the party's future.

The son and brother of U.S. presidents writes that lawmakers should create a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S. and agree to plead guilty to a crime of illegal entry. But unlike a bipartisan Senate proposal pushed by fellow Florida Republican Marco Rubio and others, Bush says tougher border security should not be a prerequisite and a pathway to legal status should not include citizenship for those who entered illegally as adults.

Bush's book, to be released Tuesday, arrives as President Barack Obama and Congress consider the revamping of the nation's immigration laws following Obama's re-election, which exposed a large deficit for Republicans among the nation's growing Hispanic electorate. Bush and co-author Clint Bolick, an attorney and vice president for litigation at the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, contend immigration reform is essential to economic growth and the nation's future but must be governed by the rule of law.

Bush said offering a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S. could encourage more illegal immigration and undermine the nation's laws. "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences," he wrote. "In this case, that those who violated the laws can remain, but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship."

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More evidence of falling life expectancy for women in many rural counties in South, West

NEW YORK (AP) -- A new study offers more compelling evidence that life expectancy for some U.S. women is actually falling, a disturbing trend that experts can't explain.

The latest research found that women age 75 and younger are dying at higher rates than previous years in nearly half of the nation's counties -- many of them rural and in the South and West. Curiously, for men, life expectancy has held steady or improved in nearly all counties.

The study is the latest to spot this pattern, especially among disadvantaged white women. Some leading theories blame higher smoking rates, obesity and less education, but several experts said they simply don't know why.

Women have long outlived men, and the latest numbers show the average life span for a baby girl born today is 81, and for a baby boy, it's 76. But the gap has been narrowing and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown women's longevity is not growing at the same pace as men's.

The phenomenon of some women losing ground appears to have begun in the late 1980s, though studies have begun to spotlight it only in the last few years.

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Middle East airlines and airports transform the region into a new crossroads for global travel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- It's 1 a.m. and the sprawling airport in this desert city is bustling. Enough languages fill the air to make a United Nations translator's head spin.

Thousands of fliers arrive every hour from China, Australia, India and nearly everywhere else on the planet. Few venture outside the terminal, which spans the length of 24 football fields. They come instead to catch connecting flights to somewhere else.

If it weren't for three ambitious and rapidly expanding government-owned airlines -- Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways -- they might have never come to the Middle East.

For generations, international fliers have stopped over in London, Paris and Amsterdam. Now, they increasingly switch planes in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi, making this region the new crossroads of global travel. The switch is driven by both the airports and airlines, all backed by governments that see aviation as the way to make their countries bigger players in the global economy.

Passengers are won over by their fancy new planes and top-notch service. But the real key to the airlines' incredible growth is geography. Their hubs in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are an eight-hour flight away from two-thirds of the world's population, including a growing middle class in India, China and Southeast Asia that is eager to travel.

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National Rifle Association will be primary sponsor of NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Texas in April

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- The National Rifle Association is taking its relationship with racing to a new level as the title sponsor of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

The deal with Texas Motor Speedway comes at a time when the NRA is involved in a renewed debate on gun violence in the wake of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"It's not about politics. It's about sports marketing," TMS president Eddie Gossage said Monday after the announcement of the one-year agreement with the NRA that includes a renewal option.

The April 13 race at Texas, the first scheduled night race in the Cup Series this season, will be known as the NRA 500.

This is not the NRA's first title sponsorship in NASCAR. The group sponsored the second-tier Nationwide race last September at Atlanta, which like Texas is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc.