Brazil doctors remove spear from man's head

Surgeons successfully removed a 15-centimeter (6-inch) fishing spear from the brain of a man who was struck while diving off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, doctors said Sunday.

Emerson de Oliveira Abreu apparently fired the spear, which ricocheted off rocks and penetrated his own head so deeply that only the tip was showing, family members and authorities said. Local media initially reported that Abreu was accidentally shot by a friend.

Doctor Manoel Moreira told Globo TV that the it took five hours of high-risk surgery to remove the projectile from Abreu, who is doing well and is not likely to suffer major, lasting damage.

The spear entered just above Abreu's left eye and missed the most critical areas of his brain, Moreira said.

"It's a miracle," said Abreu's father, Edilson, according to Globo's G1 Web site.

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Michelle Obama to address Calif. uni's first class

Seniors at the University of California, Merced couldn't rely on a wealthy and established network of alumni to reel in a famous speaker for this year's commencement address.

That's because the UC system's newest campus has yet to graduate a full senior class and only has a handful of alumni.

But that didn't keep this year's seniors from landing one of the most sought-after speakers of the season, first lady Michelle Obama.

Since February, the 430-member founding undergraduate class has organized a nonstop campaign to draw the first lady to the campus in the heart of California's Central Valley, bombarding her office with letters, emails _ even hundreds of Valentine's cards.

It set up a Facebook page to attract attention and help direct students' efforts. By Friday, the Facebook page for "The 'Dear Michelle' Campaign" had more than 540 members.

The campaign included pleas from students, faculty and local residents. One student even recruited more than a dozen family members to send letters of support, said Semonti Mustaphi, the first lady's deputy press secretary.

"Mrs. Obama was touched," Mustaphi said Friday, after the first lady announced she would speak at UC Merced's May 16 commencement. "She's very committed and connected to these young people's drive and wants to recognize the leadership that they've already exhibited."

Student organizers acknowledged their effort was a long shot when they began.

Surrounded by orchards and vineyards, UC Merced sits far from the spotlight of its sister campuses in Los Angeles and Berkeley. Many of its students are the first in their families to attend college.

"We had been watching her speeches and found them incredibly inspiring, and we just wanted to hear her in person," said Sam Fong, a 22-year-old business major from the San Francisco Bay area city of Fremont who set up the group's Facebook page. "I'm not sure what it was, but something inside me was really confident that she would respond to our efforts and our passion would show through."

Yaasha Sabbaghian, the student body president, said being a part of the fledgling campus' first class had helped him develop a sense of leadership, which he felt would resonate with Mrs. Obama.

As he and other students mused over how to attract her to the graduation, he hit on another selling point: the diversity of UC Merced's student body mirrored that of the Obama administration.

Students also reached out to Charles Ogletree, a native of Merced who is now a Harvard law professor and mentored both Obamas when they attended the school.

University spokeswoman Patti Istas said campus officials were "absolutely thrilled" when they learned the first lady had accepted the invitation, especially since administrators had cautioned students to develop a backup plan.

"This is a true testament of the founding class' vision, hard work and can-do attitude that will take them far in life," said Chancellor Steve Kang, who will participate in the ceremony.

University of California President Mark Yudof and members of the UC Board of Regents also plan to attend.

The campus, which opened in 2005, eventually is to house up to 25,000 students and 6,000 faculty. It now has 2,700 students and 162 faculty members.

The first lady will give another graduation speech to students at Washington Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter High School in the District of Columbia on June 3.

The president plans to speak at Arizona State University on May 13, the University of Notre Dame on May 17 and the United States Naval Academy on May 22.

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Labor votes to join Netanyahu government

Israel's Labor Party voted Tuesday to join the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu, giving a centrist tone to the coalition that has looked hard-line up to now.

Party secretary Eitan Cabel announced the results of the voting after a heated debate _ 680 in favor and 507 against.

Ofer Eini, head of the Histadrut labor union and a senior Labor Party operative, told Israel's Army Radio, "I'm happy that party delegates have decided to enter the government." But others chanted slogans like "Disgrace" after the announcement.

Netanyahu has signed coalition agreements with Yisrael Beitenu and Shas, two parties known for their tough policy lines toward the Palestinians, as is Netanyahu's own Likud Party. Labor, in contrast, has been in the forefront of Mideast peace efforts.

Labor's 13 seats in the parliament would give Netanyahu a majority of 66 in the 120-seat house, but there is a possibility that the party could split as a result of the vote, and some members might choose to remain in the opposition.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A Labor Party official says his party has voted to join the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu, giving a centrist tone to the coalition that has looked hard-line up to now.

Ofer Eini, head of the Histadrut labor union and a senior Labor Party operative, told Israel's Army Radio that the party's central committee agreed to Netanyahu's partnership offer.

Eini said: "I'm happy that party delegates have decided to enter the government."

Army Radio said the vote was 680 in favor and 507 against.

Netanyahu has signed coalition agreements with Yisrael Beitenu and Shas, two parties known for their tough policy lines toward the Palestinians, as is Netanyahu's own Likud Party. Labor, in contrast, has been in the forefront of Mideast peace efforts.

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Cuba: US embargo 'still standing' despite new law

Cuba's state-controlled media on Monday downplayed eased U.S. rules on family ties with Cuba, calling the measure a defeat for the communist government's foes that still left Washington's 47-year-old trade embargo intact.

The article in the Communist Party newspaper Granma was the first official mention of the Cuba clauses in a package signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 11 _ nearly two weeks prior.

The law rolled back limits on family travel and remittances imposed by the Bush Administration, effectively allowing Americans with relatives in Cuba to visit once a year, stay as long as they wish and spend up to $179 a day. The changes only remain in effect until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Granma said the changes "represent the first setback for the anti-Cuban mafia and its representatives in Congress," but added that "in practice, they don't affect the siege that successive administrations have maintained against our people."

U.S. law still bars most trade with and travel to Cuba.

"These steps don't restore the rights of Cuban residents of the United States to travel freely to Cuba or approve the rights of citizens of that country to visit a neighboring island," it said.

President Barack Obama has said he is open to talks with Cuban leaders, though he said he does not yet favor lifting the U.S. embargo. Cuban officials have sometimes criticized Obama, but have been far less hostile than they were toward ex-President George W. Bush.

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Ex-volunteer firefighter charged in fatal NY fire

Police on Long Island say a former volunteer firefighter has been arrested in connection with a fire that killed a mother and her three children.

Police say 19-year-old Caleb Lacey of Lawrence was charged with first degree arson and four counts of second-degree murder.

Police say Lacey, who was arrested on Friday, was a volunteer member of the Lawrence/Cedarhurst Fire Department. Police did not give a motive.

Morena Vanegas and daughters Andrea and Susanna and son Saul Preza died inside their second-floor apartment in North Lawrence on Feb. 19. Authorities say the fire started in a stairwell, the main escape route from the building.

Lacey will be arraigned Saturday in First District Court in Hempstead.

A police spokesman did not know if Lacey had a lawyer.

(This version CORRECTS corrects spelling of Lacey).)

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Tensions rise between Chavez, foes in Venezuela

A move to arrest a prominent opposition leader sent thousands of anti-government protesters into the streets of the country's second-largest city Friday, accusing President Hugo Chavez of launching a new attack against his critics.

The protest came after a prosecutor called for the arrest of Mayor Manuel Rosales, a prominent Chavez opponent who has been accused of corruption.

"There is no justice in Venezuela," Rosales told the crowd. "But we will continue fighting."

Critics say Chavez and his allies are leading a two-pronged offensive by persecuting opponents and increasing presidential power by putting all airports, highways and seaports under federal control. Several key ports were previously administered by Chavez opponents.

Chavez won a key vote last month that eliminated term limits.

He has warned governors that they could be arrested if they try to resist the new law bringing transportation hubs under national control.

"The persecution of the opposition is beginning, and I'm sure that Rosales won't be the last to go to jail," said Oscar Perez, an opposition leader.

Chavez denies persecuting opponents for political reasons and has called for Rosales to be jailed on corruption allegations stemming from the mayor's 2002-2004 term as governor of Zulia state.

The attorney general's office says the case against Rosales is based on a 2007 report by the country's comptroller general, the leading anti-corruption authority, that found Rosales received funds "he could not justify."

Analyst Luis Vicente Leon said some of Chavez's actions appear aimed at instilling fear in his foes.

"He's sending the message that he's capable of going against anybody _ no matter how strong you are," Leon, a Caracas-based economist and pollster, told The Associated Press.

Some critics are also alarmed by the socialist leader's efforts to clamp down with more state control over the economy as the effects of the world economic meltdown begin to set in _ compounded by low prices for Venezuelan oil, which provides 94 percent of export earnings.

Chavez has been playing hardball to try to get private companies to produce more price-controlled items as required under strict new regulations aimed at containing inflation. He ordered the expropriation of a rice plant owned by Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. earlier this month and warned major food producer Empresas Polar that it could be taken over if it does not obey the new regulations.

Chavez plans to announce economic measures on Saturday to help cope with the global crisis.

The government also is facing mounting pressure from public workers' unions, several of which have threatened in recent weeks to demand better contracts.

Meanwhile, strikes at auto assembly plants owned by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Toyota have been severely slowing production, cutting the output of vehicles in the country by 25 percent overall.

Toyota's Venezuelan-based subsidiary warned Friday that the plant's future is being jeopardized by a worker occupation since March 6.

The company, which has 2,700 employees here, said "for the first time in 51 years in Venezuela, we're seeing with great concern the possibility that the continuation of the Toyota plant's operations could be affected critically and permanently."

Associated Press writer Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report.

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Dungeon trial: Fritzl pleads guilty to all charges

ST. POELTEN, Austria (CNN) -- Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man accused of repeatedly raping his daughter in a cellar dungeon for decades, has admitted guilt on all charges, including responsibility for the death of one of seven children he fathered by his daughter.

Fritzl had already pleaded guilty to incest and other charges, but previously denied charges of murder and enslavement.

But on Wednesday Fritzl told the court in St. Poelten, 70 kilometers (40 miles) west of Vienna, he had changed his mind after watching his daughter Elisabeth's video testimony earlier in the week.

In a weak voice, the 73-year-old said he was in the cramped cellar when the baby, called Michael Fritzl, was born.

He noticed the child was breathing heavily, he said, but did not think the baby would die and opted not to seek medical attention.

Fritzl told the court he was therefore probably responsible for the child's death. He had previously told police he had burned the baby's body in a furnace.

"This is a major development in this trial," said CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. "The murder charge is really the centerpiece of this whole trial because only a murder conviction could get Josef Fritzl a life sentence.

Fritzl's new plea could speed proceedings although the jury must still decide on his guilt or innocence, a court spokesman said. "The admission of guilt alone is not enough," spokesman Franz Cutka told reporters.

Observers had said the murder charge might be difficult to prove because the only evidence was testimony from Elisabeth and a neo-natal expert. A verdict had been expected on Thursday.

Wednesday's proceedings will involve psychiatrists talking about Fritzl and his daughter, and a technical expert who will testify about the construction and living conditions of the cellar. The underground chamber had low ceilings -- about 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) high -- and, for the first couple of years, only minimal sanitation. The cellar had no daylight or fresh air.

On Tuesday, the court heard from one of Elisabeth Fritzl's brothers, Harald. The media and public were barred from the courtroom during his testimony. Authorities have said Elisabeth and her children were given new identities and are in a secret location. Prosecutors allege that Fritzl closeted Elisabeth in a specially designed cellar in 1984, when she was 18, telling other family members she had run away to join a cult. He kept her there for 24 years, authorities think, repeatedly sexually assaulting her and fathering her seven children.

Fritzl took three of the children upstairs to live with him and his wife, telling the family that the missing Elisabeth had dropped them off.

Elisabeth and the remaining children never saw daylight, prosecutors said, and Fritzl went away for long periods, leaving them without food. To punish them, prosecutors said, Fritzl sometimes turned off the power in the cellar for up to 10 days.

The case first came to light in April 2008 when Elisabeth's then-19-year-old daughter, Kerstin, became seriously ill with convulsions, and Elisabeth persuaded her father to allow the girl to be taken to a hospital.

When Elisabeth gained her freedom, she told police her father began sexually abusing her at age 11. Seven years later, she said, he drugged, handcuffed and locked her in the cellar.

Defense attorney Rudolph Mayer has said Fritzl expects to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Under Austrian law, murder carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In cases where a defendant faces multiple charges their sentence will be determined by the worst crime of which they are convicted.

The charges Fritzl faces are:

• Murder: The infant who died in 1996 died from a lack of medical care, the state prosecutor said. The charge carries a sentence of life in prison.

• Involvement in slave trade: From 1984 until 2008, prosecutors allege, Fritzl held his daughter, Elisabeth, captive in a dungeon, abused her sexually and treated her as if she were his personal property -- in a situation similar to slavery. If he is convicted, the sentence could range from 10 to 20 years in prison.

• Rape: Between August 30, 1984, and June 30, 1989, Fritzl "regularly sexually abused Elisabeth," according to the prosecutor. The sentence could be from five to 15 years in prison.

• Incest: Parallel to the rape charge. It carries a sentence of up to one year. • Withdrawal of liberty: Three of the children Fritzl had with Elisabeth were illegally held captive in a dungeon with no daylight or fresh air, according to prosecutors. That charge carries a sentence of one to 10 years.

• Assault: Between August 28, 1984, and April 26, 2006, Fritzl repeatedly threatened Elisabeth and their three children with gas and booby traps as warnings in case they tried to escape, authorities allege. The sentence would range from six months to five years.
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Where's Ecuador? Not on new Brazilian school map

Where's Ecuador? Better not ask that question in Brazil. A new Brazilian geography text book for sixth-grade students doesn't even include the South American country on the map.

In fact, the book distributed by the education ministry in Brazil's most populous state botches the location of most of Brazil's neighbors. Paraguay is switched with Uruguay, and a second "new" Paraguay is shown with a coastline at the southern tip of Brazil.

That is something that even Paraguay's military generals could not accomplish during their 1864-1870 war against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay _ in which historians say landlocked Paraguay dreamed of capturing a slice of Brazil's coastline.

Bolivia is fortunate enough to appear on the map, but the book misses its border with Paraguay _ the Paraguay that sits where Uruguay should be, that is.

The geographical jumbling baffled sixth-grader Joao Gabriel Anchieta, who looked over the map while being interviewed by Globo, Brazil's largest television network.

Asked what would happen should he have to take a geography test based upon the map, Joao said he "would get a bad grade."

About 500,000 of the books containing errors were distributed and will be replaced with corrected maps, to be paid for by the Vanzolini Foundation, which published the books, Sao Paulo's education ministry said.

No one answered telephone calls by The Associated Press to the publisher's offices.

Associated Press Writer Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil, contributed to this report.

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Bundchen, Brady in Brazil to visit model's family

Brazilian media are reporting that Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady are in the supermodel's hometown so that she can introduce the American football star to her family.

Zero Hora newspaper says the supermodel and Brady are in the southern Brazilian city of Horizontina for the 83rd birthday of Bundchen's grandfather and so that he can meet family members, including her sisters, aunts and uncles.

Foto: Tadeu Vilani/ Zero Hora/ Agência RBS

The couple were reportedly married last month in the United States.

The newspaper on Sunday published a photo showing Bundchen and Brady eating ice cream inside a car. It said the couple spent most of Saturday touring the town of 18,000 inhabitants and that Brady exercised at a local gym.

Repeated calls to the Bundchen family home went unanswered.

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Obama, Brazilian president to meet at White House

Troubled world economies, energy and the environment will be among the topics for discussion when President Barack Obama sits down with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Trade, relations with Latin America and the case of a New Jersey man trying to bring his 8-year-old son back from Brazil also may come up when Obama and Silva meet Saturday at the White House.

The leaders also will compare notes on two international forums on their schedules next month, a gathering of the Group of 20 nations and the Summit of the Americas, said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Brazil has become a major U.S. trading partner, and its cautious economic policies have helped it weather the global economic crisis better than almost all other major economies. South America's largest country, Brazil also has huge new sources of offshore oil and abundant ethanol, which could give it a key role in helping the U.S. wean itself off Venezuelan crude and shift to cleaner sources of energy.

Silva, who runs the world's fifth-most-populous nation and ninth-largest economy, has close ties with leaders across the political spectrum. He's been asked to lobby Obama for free trade on behalf of conservatives in Colombia and for dropping the U.S. embargo against communist Cuba.

Even Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has had a prickly relationship with the U.S., has asked his Brazilian counterpart to put in some good words for him.

"I'm going to ask that the U.S. take a different view of Latin America," Silva said before leaving his country. "We're a democratic, peaceful continent, and the U.S. has to look at the region in a productive, developmental way, and not just think about drug trafficking or organized crime."

After the global financial crisis, their next big discussion is likely to be about energy _ biofuels and oil.

The world's largest exporter of ethanol, Brazil has seen little traction on its demand that the U.S. lift a 53-cent-per-gallon import tariff on the gasoline alternative. But in the past two years, Brazil has made offshore oil discoveries of some 80 billion barrels, and the find could help turn it into a major crude exporter and become a bargaining chip of sorts with the U.S.

Another issue that has sparked great interest in the two countries is the case of David Goldman, a Tinton Falls, N.J., man who is trying to bring his 8-year-old son back from Brazil. The boy was taken there in 2004 by his mother, who died several years later while giving birth to another child. She had divorced Goldman and married an attorney from Rio de Janeiro. Both children are being raised by the lawyer's family.

A unanimous House of Representatives this week urged Brazil to "act with extreme urgency" to return the boy to Goldman, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she has discussed the case with high-ranking Brazilian officials.

Thomas A. Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said Friday that Obama is aware of the case.

Silva, who has spoken by telephone with Obama on at least two occasions, will be the first Latin American leader to sit down with Obama. In recent weeks, Obama has met with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Associated Press writer Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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Octuplets' mother says she's buying larger home

(CNN) -- Nadya Suleman, the California woman who gave birth to octuplets in January, says she's buying a house of her own, despite news reports otherwise.

"I earned it. ... No, my father did not purchase this house for me. I did it on my own," Suleman told Radar magazine's Web site during a video tour of the home.

"It's 1,000-square-footage bigger than the old house," she said as she showed the 2,583-square-foot house in a cul-de-sac with manicured lawns in La Habra, California. News reports had said that her father was buying the house.

She did not say specifically how she was paying for the house, but told Radar: "My ultimate goal is not to be a burden on ... taxpayers. So there have been a couple of offers. ... I selectively picked a couple of opportunities to earn some resources for the kids."

A moving truck stood outside as paparazzi cameras flashed and curious neighbors gathered.

"They [her older children] like it more than Grandma's house," Suleman said.

Suleman showed the house, gesturing animatedly as she toured the living room, dining room and kitchen, and a den off the kitchen that she said she plans to turn into a nursery.

All the cribs will be kept in that room and two babies will share each crib, she said, "unless one is sick, because they are so strong and healthy right now. ... Six are ready to come home." Suleman, 33, added that they would come home two at a time.

"Two are little and they need to gain weight, and that's it. There's no medical problem," she said.

Suleman skipped upstairs to show her master bedroom, adding that she will be spending a lot of time on the couch.

"I'll probably be sleeping one to two hours ... which is what I'm getting now," she said as she walked around the room. reported that the home, which was listed for $564,900, has four bedrooms and a large backyard.

The magazine also reported that Kaiser Permanente hospital representatives inspected the home in preparation for the babies. Another Radar video showed the carpets and tiles ripped up in Suleman's house as work was being done.

Suleman -- already a single mother to six young children -- gave birth to the octuplets through in-vitro fertilization. News of her collecting public assistance for some of her children also outraged many taxpayers.

Georgia state Sen. Ralph Hudgens, a Republican, has proposed legislation to limit the number of embryos implanted during in-vitro fertilization.

"She is not married," Hudgens said. "She is unemployed, she is on government assistance and now she is going to put those 14 children on the back of the taxpayers in the state of California."

Hudgens' proposal would limit the number of embryos that a Georgia doctor could implant to two for women younger than 40 and three for women 40 or older.
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Netanyahu aide says Obama agrees on Iran, at least

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama may differ on some issues, but they agree that stopping Iran getting a nuclear bomb is a top priority, a senior adviser to Israel's prime minister-designate said on Thursday.

Zalman Shoval, a former ambassador to Washington and foreign relations chief of Netanyahu's Likud party, told Reuters in New York that Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had "started off on the right foot" in relations with the government taking shape in Israel.

He also played down concerns about the likely appointment as foreign minister of Avigdor Lieberman, the ultranationalist head of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party.

"He's a very intelligent person and not necessarily ... inflexible," Shoval said at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of major American Jewish organizations.

The Moldovan-born Lieberman had said he would like to be defense minister -- a prospect that raised eyebrows in Israel and abroad given his hawkish talk on issues such as Iran's nuclear program and on Israel's Arab minority.

Shoval warned against preconceived ideas, recalling that Ariel Sharon was long regarded with similar concern, yet it was Sharon who pulled Israeli troops out of Gaza.

He added that the relationship with Israel's most important ally, the United States, was traditionally "mainly in the hands of the prime minister," and that as foreign minister, Lieberman would not determine policy toward Israel's Arab minority.

"The Arab states, or their officials, are realists and they also understand that the main worry for both Israel and themselves is the Iranian threat," he said. "(That) goes beyond the question of the nuclear bomb. It's the desire for Iranian hegemony in the whole area, which worries the Arabs."


Shoval said both Netanyahu and Obama were pragmatic leaders willing to work together. But he conceded there were likely to be differences, such as on Jerusalem, an Arab peace plan, relations with Syria, settlements and Gaza, where Israel launched an offensive in December to quell Hamas rocket fire.

Shoval said if Hamas continues to fire rockets at Israel, "there may perhaps, or may not be, chapter two" of the Gaza offensive.

Regarding the relationship with the United States, he said, "Our roads may not always run parallel, but there's certainly no reason for a smash up."

On her first visit to Jerusalem as U.S. secretary of state, Clinton said "a two-state solution is inescapable." Netanyahu has strenuously avoided committing to a Palestinian state, and Shoval said there should be no rush to a solution.

"It would be foolhardy to agree today to any sort of fixed or set formula which could create a situation where we would see, within months, Hamas on the walls of Jerusalem," he said.

But he said Clinton's visit was encouraging because both sides agreed that stopping Iran getting a nuclear bomb was an urgent priority.

"She agreed on the necessity for a timeline (on Iran)," he said. "She didn't actually say two or three months, but I think what was implied is it can not be open-ended, because if it is open-ended they will have the bomb and then we'll talk."

"I don't want to paint too rosy a picture (of the U.S. relationship)," he said. "Of course there will be disagreements, perhaps even confrontations."

But he said Obama's administration appeared to accept that Iran, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan, "come before the Palestinian-Israeli problem, and rightly so."

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Study finds belly fat makes breathing harder

Carrying excess weight around the middle can impair lung function, adding to a long list of health problems associated with belly fat, French researchers said on Friday.

Abdominal obesity is already linked with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease as part of a cluster of health problems known collectively as metabolic syndrome.

Researchers have now shown that a large waist measurement is strongly associated with decreased lung function, regardless of other complicating factors that affect the lungs such as overall obesity and smoking.

The researchers analyzed health information about 120,000 people in France, assessing demographic background, smoking history, alcohol consumption, as well as lung function with respect to a measure of obesity known as body mass index, waist circumference and other measures of metabolic health.

"We found a positive independent relationship between lung function impairment and metabolic syndrome due mainly to abdominal obesity," Dr. Natalie Leone of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research wrote in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The researchers defined abdominal obesity as having a waist circumference of greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.

Several large studies have linked poor lung function with higher rates of deaths and hospitalization from heart disease, the researchers said.

While it was not clear from the study, the researchers think belly fat may impair the way the diaphragm and chest function. Fat tissue is also known to increase inflammation in the body, which may be playing a role, they said.

Although the reasons may not be clear, Dr. Paul Enright of the University of Arizona said in a commentary there is now enough evidence to include waist measurements as part of routine assessments of lung function.

"Abdominal obesity could then be highlighted on the printed report so that the physician interpreting the report could take the effect of obesity into account," Enright wrote.

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Brazil: Rancher tied to nun's case is charged

A rancher fighting accusations that he ordered the murder of a U.S. nun has now been charged with trying to fraudulently obtain the plot of Amazon rain forest she died trying to defend, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

The new charge, filed in federal court in the northern city of Altamira, could undermine one of Regivaldo Galvao's key alibis in the separate murder case. He has testified he had no interest in the piece of land that 73-year-old Dorothy Stang was trying to defend when she was shot to death in 2005.

But prosecutors say that Galvao presented documents to Brazil's Incra land reform agency in November asserting he owns the disputed land and saying he wants it back.

Federal prosecutor Felicio Pontes said Galvao's claim is fraudulent _ that the land where Stang was killed is public property _ and that the attempt to get the land will aid prosecutors trying to convict him of killing the nun, a native of Dayton, Ohio.

"It will help the case of Dorothy's murder," Pontes said. "The case is still open and we can use the facts from this land case in Dorothy's. He is going to be found guilty, I have no doubt."

It was not immediately possible to contact Galvao and calls to his lawyer rang unanswered.

Stang spent three decades trying to preserve the rain forest and defending the rights of poor settlers who confronted powerful ranchers seeking their lands in the Amazon's wild frontier.

Prosecutors contend Galvao and another rancher hired gunmen to kill Stang over a disputed plot of land. He was arrested in 2005 but was freed on bail in 2006 and has used legal maneuvers to avoid trial.

A second rancher accused in Stang's murder, Vitalmiro Moura, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in May 2007. But his sentence was overturned last year after the man who confessed to shooting Stang recanted earlier testimony and said he acted alone. Gunman Rayfran das Neves Sales was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Pontes said Galvao will likely appear within a month before a judge in the jungle city of Altamira for arraignment on the land charges.

In the last two decades, more than 1,100 activists, small farmers, judges, priests and other rural workers have been killed in disputes over preserving land, according to rights groups.

Stang's case was the subject of a documentary film, "They Killed Sister Dorothy," which will debut on HBO on March 25.

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Bolivia expels US diplomat

President Evo Morales on Monday ordered a U.S. diplomat to leave the country, alleging he was conspiring with opposition groups. The leftist leader already had expelled the U.S. ambassador six months earlier.

Morales said that "deep investigations" had determined the U.S. Embassy's second secretary, Francisco Martinez, "was in permanent contact with opposition groups."

The U.S. government had no immediate comment, though an embassy official said Martinez was a career diplomat whose portfolio was political affairs. The official was not authorized to discuss the expulsion and thus spoke on condition of anonymity.

Last week, Morales publicly accused Martinez of "coordinating contacts" with a Bolivian police officer he accused of infiltrating the state oil company on behalf of the CIA. The oil company has been plagued by a corruption scandal that landed its president, a close Morales ally, in jail.

The U.S. government last week called Morales' accusation about alleged CIA infiltration of the company baseless and accused him of using the United States as a scapegoat in domestic politics.

"We can't understand how the president can assure us that he wants better relations with the United States and at the same time continue to make false accusations," Denise Urs, an embassy spokeswoman, said last week in a statement.

In September, Morales expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, alleging he was inciting the political opposition. The move followed bloody rioting between Morales supporters and pro-autonomy activists in Bolivia's wealthier, unabashadly capitalist eastern lowlands.

Morales later kicked out the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, accusing it of espionage and of funding "criminal groups" seeking to undermine his government. He alleged intrigue that he did not detail.

A former coca-growers union leader, Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president and is seeking to "refound" the country on behalf of its long-suppressed native majority.

In promoting a socialist agenda, Morales nationalized control of Bolivia's natural gas reserves in mid-2006, alienating many foreign investors and further polarizing South America's poorest nation.

Morales is a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who kicked out the U.S. ambassador in September in solidarity with Morales,

In 2005, Chavez suspended his country's cooperation with the DEA, similarly accusing its agents of espionage.

AP writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Lima, Peru.

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Chavez says US, Brazil free to discuss Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has given Brazil's president the green light to talk about Venezuela with President Barack Obama.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva plans to meet Obama on March 14 in Washington, and Chavez said the Brazilian leader told him by phone that "he would like to talk with the president of the United States about the case of Venezuela."

U.S.-Venezuelan relations remain prickly despite the change of administrations in Washington, while Brazil's left-leaning president has maintained friendly relations both with the U.S. and the socialist Chavez.

"We don't need any intermediary to speak with any government on the planet, but since it's Lula and in good faith, I told him yes, that I gave him the green light," Chavez said Thursday in a televised speech, addressing troops.

Chavez added, however, that "I've told him I don't have much hope of that government changing."

Silva's office confirmed the two spoke by phone Wednesday and agreed the Brazilian leader could bring up Venezuela with Obama.

Chavez has condemned recent U.S. State Department reports alleging human rights problems in Venezuela and a lack of cooperation in counter-drug efforts.

Chavez said Washington will have to show more respect if relations are to improve. "We aren't asking for anything. We just demand respect," he said.

Under President George W. Bush, U.S. officials often expressed concern about the health of democracy in Venezuela. Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador in September.

Chavez said he told Silva "that I'm willing for us to talk with respect, and for us to put on the table the most relevant issues."

He said that includes "one issue that worries us all" _ the global economic crisis.

Associated Press Writer Stan Lehman contributed to this report from Sao Paulo.

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NASA planet hunter poised for liftoff

NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler, is poised for liftoff, and everything seems to be going well in the final stages of Friday's countdown.

Even the weather is cooperating for the nighttime rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. Forecasters put the odds of good weather at more than 95 percent, as good as it gets.

The Kepler telescope, once it's in orbit around the sun, will try to find other Earths in a faraway patch of the Milky Way galaxy. It will stare at 100,000 stars for more than three years. It will be watching for any dimming, or winks, in the stellar brightness that might be caused by orbiting planets.

The mission cost is $600 million.

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Teen gets year in Starbucks manslaughter case

A teenager from Georgia has been sentenced to a year in jail in the death of a customer at a St. Louis-area Starbucks.

Judge Colleen Dolan handed down the sentence Thursday for 19-year-old Aaron Poisson of Cumming, Ga. He pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter, stealing and leaving the scene of an accident.

At the hearing, Poisson cried as he turned and faced relatives of the victim, telling them he was sorry and that they were in his prayers.

Last March, Poisson stole a tip jar from the counter of a Starbucks, and 54-year-old Roger Kreutz of Creve Coeur went to the parking lot to stop him. Poisson's car accidentally struck Kreutz, killing him.

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Jerusalem mayor rejects Clinton's criticism

Jerusalem's new mayor said Thursday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was ill-informed when she criticized the demolition of Arab houses in this hotly disputed city. He said the practice is about law and order, not politics.

On Wednesday, Clinton called Israel's demolition of the illegally built Palestinian homes "unhelpful" and in violation of a U.S.-backed peace plan.

Israel has issued orders for the demolition of dozens of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem. Palestinians say they cannot receive proper building permits from Israeli authorities, and the planned demolitions are means to assert Israel's control over the disputed city.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area. But the annexation is not internationally recognized, and the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as capital of a future independent state.

On Thursday, the city's mayor, Nir Barkat, said Jerusalem was a victim of a double standard and a campaign of Palestinian disinformation.

"I totally reject the notion that we are kicking people out of their homes, that is not the case," he said. "If you build illegal houses, you pay the consequence ... I expect people to obey the law."

Barkat said he made his position clear to Clinton personally during her visit.

Speaking to foreign journalists, he said that since the beginning of the year the city had demolished 28 illegal homes _ 17 in the predominantly Arab eastern area and 11 in the predominantly Jewish western area.

"In west and east Jerusalem, the planning process and the ability to give licenses needs improvement," he said. "However, it is not an excuse for people to build illegally." Barkat said he was acting to expedite the licensing procedure.

The vast majority of housing construction in east Jerusalem has been for Jews, not Palestinians, and the area lags other parts of the city in infrastructure investment.

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Argentine courts seize Iran diplomat's property

An Argentine court has ordered a second seizure of property owned by a former cultural attache at Iran's embassy in Buenos Aires who is sought for his alleged role in a 1994 terrorist attack.

A judge has approved prosecutor Alberto Nisman's motion to seize five more buildings owned by Moshen Rabbani due to his alleged role in a bombing that flattened a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires and killed 85 people.

The judge approved the seizure of six buildings in November.

Nisman told The Associated Press that the action is part of a survivor's suit for $1 million in damages.

If Rabbani is convicted, his property would be auctioned and the money would go to the victims of the attack. His whereabouts are unknown.

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US: 'Inescapable' movement to Palestinian state

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Tuesday to work with the incoming Israeli government, but delivered a clear message that could put her at odds with the country's next leader: Movement toward the establishment of a Palestinian state is "inescapable."

Clinton also said the U.S. would soon send two envoys to Syria. It was the most significant sign yet that the Obama administration is ready to mend relations with the Damascus regime. The U.S. withdrew its ambassador in 2005, accusing Syria of supporting terrorism.

"We have no way to predict what the future with our relations concerning Syria might be," Clinton said. "There has to be some perceived benefit of doing so for the United States and our allies and our shared values. But I think it is a worthwhile effort to go and begin these preliminary conversations."

In Damascus, the U.S. Embassy announced that Jeffrey Feltman, the State Department's top diplomat for the Middle East, would lead the American delegation headed to the Syrian capital.

The U.S. ambassador was pulled out by the Bush administration in 2005 to protest Syria's suspected role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The United States has also criticized Syria for supporting militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and has accused Syria of not doing enough to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq. Syria has said it is doing all it can to safeguard its long, porous border.

Clinton lamented that President Barack Obama's attempts to reach out to Syrian ally Iran have so far been unsuccessful. The U.S. and Israel accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and supporting anti-Israel militant groups.

Clinton, seeking to calm her Israeli hosts, said diplomacy should not be confused with softness.

"When we talk about engagement with Iran, do not be in any way confused, our goal remains the same: to dissuade and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and continuing to fund terrorism," she said. "Whatever we do will be done thoughtfully in consultation with our friends and Israel, most particularly Israel."

Senior Israeli officials including Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Clinton that Israel does not oppose Washington's overtures to Iran. However, they said they were skeptical about Iran's intentions and urged the U.S. to set a deadline for Iran to respond positively. Israel fears Iran will use American engagement to buy time to develop nuclear weapons.

Asked about Netanyahu, Clinton acknowledged the possibility of disagreements with any Israeli government and made clear the U.S. would push forward with its efforts to forge a peace deal that includes the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"The United States will be vigorously engaged in the pursuit of a two-state solution every step of the way," she said. "The inevitability of working toward a two state-solution is inescapable."

Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes Palestinian statehood and has been critical of peace talks, said after meeting Clinton in Jerusalem that the two had "found a common language."

While Netanyahu's hardline Likud party won one parliamentary seat less than Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima in last month's general election, neither came close to winning a majority.

Netanyahu, however, has broader support among lawmakers and is working to build a coalition of right-wing and Orthodox Jewish parties. He is expected to be sworn in as prime minister within weeks.

There were signs Tuesday that he could be backing off previous pledges to abandon the current round of peace talks with the Palestinians, launched in November 2007 at a U.S.-hosted summit.

"I think that Hillary Clinton...will find Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to continue to hold negotiations, not only on economic projects but also political negotiations, a political process," Likud lawmaker Silvan Shalom, a former foreign minister, said ahead of the meeting between the two.

Netanyahu was less explicit, but still conciliatory in tone when he spoke to journalists after his session with Clinton.

"The common goal is creative thinking to get out of the maze and try to create a new reality," he said. "There is a deep will on both our sides to work in cooperation."

Clinton signaled that an open quarrel with Israel was unlikely, stressing the close relationship between the two countries and saying Israel must ultimately decide what is in its best interests.

"We happen to believe that moving toward the two-state solution, step by step, is in Israel's best interests. But obviously it's up to the people and the government of Israel to decide how to define your interests," she said.

Several Netanyahu aides said his talks with Clinton focused on Iran and Gaza. The aides said Netanyahu asked that the U.S. set a deadline for Iran to respond to its diplomatic overtures, but he did not say what the U.S. should do if the deadline passes.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not attend the meeting, but instead were briefed by Netanyahu.

Hamas officials reacted harshly to Clinton's criticism.

"We haven't seen anything good," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. "She approves of occupation and its crimes and interferes in Palestinian internal affairs."

Clinton arrived in Jerusalem Monday evening from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, where she pledged $900 million in U.S. aid at an international donors conference for rebuilding the Gaza Strip after Israel's recent offensive against its Hamas rulers.

Associated Press writer Aron Heller in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


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