Tuesday March 5, 2013

U.S. 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.

Syrian troops killed in Iraq after seeking refuge, raising concerns of war’s spread

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Dozens of Syrian soldiers who had crossed into Iraq for refuge were ambushed Monday with bombs, gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades in an attack that killed 48 of them and heightened concerns that the country could be drawn into Syria’s civil war.

The fact that the soldiers were on Iraqi soil at all raises questions about Baghdad’s apparent willingness to quietly aid the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The well-coordinated attack, which Iraqi officials blamed on al-Qaida’s Iraq arm, also suggests possible coordination between the militant group and its ideological allies in Syria who rank among the rebels’ most potent fighters.

Iraqi officials said the Syrians had sought refuge through the Rabiya border crossing in northern Iraq during recent clashes with rebels and were being escorted back home through a different crossing farther south when the ambush occurred. Their convoy was struck near Akashat, not far from the Syrian border.

Mourning in N.Y. as newborn dies after hit-and-run; police look for the driver

NEW YORK (AP) -- A close-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was plunged into a new round of mourning Monday by the death of a baby who was delivered by cesarean section after his parents were killed in a grisly hit-and-run crash a day earlier.

Police hunted for the suspected driver, identified as Julio Acevedo, saying he was barreling down a residential street in a BMW at 60 mph, or twice the speed limit, on Sunday morning when he collided with a car hired to take the couple to the hospital.

The death of the newborn on Monday piled tragedy upon tragedy and compounded the community’s grief. The infant was expected to be buried near the fresh graves of his parents, Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21. About a thousand community members turned out for the young couple’s funeral a day earlier.

"The mood in the neighborhood is very heavy," said Oscar Sabel, a retired printer who lives near the scene of the accident. "We all hoped the baby would survive."

Unrest in Egyptian city draws in the military and raises warning of breakdown of order

CAIRO (AP) -- Clashes between protesters and the police in in the restive Egyptian city of Port Said that entered their second day Monday have dragged in the military to a dramatic extent into the nation’s turmoil.

At times in the violence, frictions have arisen between the police that were battling protesters and army forces that tried to break up the fighting. Troops in between the two sides were overwhelmed by police tear gas, one army colonel was wounded by live fire, and troops even opened fire over the heads of police, bringing cheers from protesters.

Three policemen and three civilians were killed in the fighting, and troops stood by as protesters torched a government complex Monday that contains the city’s main police building.

The scenes, following three weeks of strikes and protests in the city, have underlined a scenario that many in Egypt view with a mix of concern and relief -- that the military may move back into politics, prompted by mushrooming protests, a breakdown in law and order and mounting challenges to the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Some opponents of Morsi have outright called for the military to take power, and even those who say they oppose a military return have used the prospect to pressure Morsi to find some consensus in the country’s political crisis.

Prominent opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei warned of decaying state institutions and rising levels of violence.

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.

Resident of Calif. independent living facility dies when nurse refuses to do CPR due to policy

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) -- Police on Monday were investigating whether there was any criminal wrongdoing in the handling of a health emergency at an independent living facility where a woman died after a nurse refused to provide CPR.

The facility, Glenwood Gardens, defended its nurse, saying she had followed policy in dealing with the 87-year-old woman who fainted in a dining room.

A police dispatcher who fielded the 911 call was told the woman had a heart problem and was barely breathing.

Police immediately routed the call to the Bakersfield Fire Department, where a dispatcher pleaded with a nurse at the facility to perform CPR on the woman.

The nurse refused, saying one of the home’s policies prevented her from doing CPR, according to an audio recording of the call. Kenya vote violence kills 19 as voters endure long lines; gunmen attack poll stations

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) -- Kenya’s presidential election drew millions of eager voters who endured long lines to cast ballots Monday, but the vote was marred by violence that left 19 people dead, including four policemen hacked to death by machete-wielding separatists.

Officials urged voters not to be intimidated by the violence amid fears the impending election results could spark another round of the ethnic-related bloodshed in which more than 1,000 people died after the 2007 vote.

The election is the first presidential poll under a new constitution designed to prevent the ethnic violence of 2007-08. Enthusiastic voters formed long lines around the country, and election officials estimated turnout at 70 percent of 14 million registered voters.

The voting got off to a bloody start when a group of 200 separatists set a trap for police in the coastal city of Mombasa in the pre-dawn hours, Inspector General David Kimaiyo said. Four police were hacked to death with machetes, coast police boss Aggrey Adoli said.

The separatist group -- the Mombasa Republican Council -- had threatened election day attacks, and Kimaiyo said police were planning a raid "that will see the end of the MRC."

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.