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AP News in Brief at 4:58 a.m. EST

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 15, 2013 at 5:00 am •  Published: April 14, 2013
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Maduro to take over Chavez's revolution after tight election win rejected by the opposition

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has won Venezuela's presidential election by a stunningly narrow margin that highlights rising discontent over problems ranging from crime to power blackouts. His rival demanded a recount, portending more headaches for a country shaken by the death of its dominating leader.

One key Chavista leader made known his dismay over the outcome of Sunday's election that was supposed to cement the self-styled "Bolivarian Revolution" of their beloved president as Venezuela's destiny. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, who many consider Maduro's main rival within their movement, tweeted: "The results oblige us to make a profound self-criticism."

Maduro's victory followed an often ugly, mudslinging campaign in which the winner promised to carry on Chavez's legacy, while challenger Henrique Capriles' main message was that Chavez put this country with the world's largest oil reserves on the road to ruin.

Despite the ill feelings, both men sent their supporters home and urged them to refrain from violence.

Maduro, acting president since Chavez's March 5 death, held a double-digit advantage in opinion polls just two weeks ago, but electoral officials said he got just 50.7 percent of the votes compared to 49.1 percent for Capriles, with nearly all ballots counted.

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Oblivious to tensions abroad, North Koreans celebrate birthday of late president

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Oblivious to international tensions over a possible North Korean missile launch, Pyongyang residents spilled into the streets Monday to celebrate a major national holiday, the birthday of their first leader, Kim Il Sung.

Girls in red and pink jackets skipped along streets festooned with celebratory banners and flags and parents pushed strollers with babies bundled up against the spring chill as residents of the isolated, impoverished nation began observing a three-day holiday.

There was no sense of panic in the North Korean capital, where very few locals have access to international broadcasts and foreign newspaper headlines speculating about an imminent missile launch and detailing the international diplomacy under way to try to rein Pyongyang in, including a swing through the region by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to try to tamp down emotions and coordinate Washington's response with Beijing, North Korea's most important ally.

Foreign governments have been struggling to assess how seriously to take North Korea's recent torrent of rhetoric — including warnings of possible nuclear war — as it expresses its anger over continuing U.S.-South Korea military maneuvers just across the border. Officials in South Korea, the United States and Japan say intelligence indicates that North Korean officials, fresh off an underground nuclear test in February, are ready to launch a medium-range missile.

North Korea's own media gave little indication Monday of how high the tensions are.

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Iraq: At least 27 killed, over 100 wounded in string of attacks across country

BAGHDAD (AP) — A series of attacks across Iraq killed 27 people and wounded well over 100 on Monday morning, officials said.

The attacks, many involving car bombs, took place less than a week before Iraqis in much of the country are scheduled to vote in the country's first elections since the 2011 U.S. troop withdrawal. The vote will be a key test of security forces' ability to keep voters safe.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but coordinated attacks are a favorite tactic of al-Qaida's Iraq branch.

Iraqi officials believe the insurgent group is growing stronger and increasingly coordinating with allies fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad across the border. They say rising lawlessness on the Syria-Iraq frontier and cross-border cooperation with the Syrian militant group Nusra Front has improved the militants' supply of weapons and foreign fighters.

Nearly all of the deadly attacks reported by police officials were bombings, which struck Baghdad, in the western city of Fallujah, the contested northern city of Kirkuk and towns south of the capital. Another 100 people were wounded.

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Supreme Court to hear arguments over whether human genes can be patented

WASHINGTON (AP) — DNA may be the building block of life, but can something taken from it also be the building block of a multimillion-dollar medical monopoly?

The Supreme Court grapples Monday with the question of whether human genes can be patented. Its ultimate answer could reshape U.S. medical research, the fight against diseases like breast and ovarian cancer and the multi-billion dollar medical and biotechnology business.

"The intellectual framework that comes out of the decision could have a significant impact on other patents — for antibiotics, vaccines, hormones, stem cells and diagnostics on infectious microbes that are found in nature," Robert Cook-Deegan, director for genome ethics, law & policy at Duke University, said in a statement.

"This could affect agricultural biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, green-tech, the use of organisms to produce alternative fuels and other applications," he said.

The nine justices' decision will also have a profound effect on American business, with billions of dollars of investment and years of research on the line. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years.

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IAEA evaluating cleanup at crippled Japan nuclear plant that's been beset by new troubles

TOKYO (AP) — The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency Monday began reviewing the decommissioning process at Japan's crippled nuclear plant, where new problems are triggering growing safety concerns about a cleanup expected to take decades.

The experts will assess and analyze melted reactors, radiation levels and waste management at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant to make its decommissioning process safer and more stable, team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo told reporters.

The cleanup is "a very difficult challenge," he said, and "it is very important to conduct the decommissioning process in a very safe way."

The mission by the 12-member team is the International Atomic Energy Agency's first review of the plant's decommissioning process.

Japan's nuclear watchdog said there have been at least eight accidents or problems at the plant since mid-March, ranging from extensive power outages and leaks of contaminated water.

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New York registration of reclassified 'assault weapons,' magazine ammunition limit to begin

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Key measures of New York's tough new gun law are set to kick in, with owners of guns now reclassified as assault weapons required to register the firearms and new limits on the number of bullets allowed in magazines.

As the new provisions take effect Monday, New York's affiliate of the National Rifle Association said it plans to head to court to seek an immediate halt to the magazine limit.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls those and other provisions in the state's new gun law common sense while dismissing criticisms he says come from "extreme fringe conservatives" who claim the government has no right to regulate guns.

"Yes, they are against it, but they are the extremists and the extremists shouldn't win, especially on this issue when it is so important to the majority," Cuomo said in a radio interview Wednesday. "In politics, we have to be willing to take on the extremists, otherwise you will see paralysis."

New York's new gun restrictions, the first in the nation passed following December's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, limit state gun owners to no more than seven bullets in magazines, except at competitions or firing ranges.

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PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama's pledges on debt, growth and manufacturing face mixed prospects

The issue:

The U.S. economy is recovering from the Great Recession but at a modest, uneven pace. Many scars remain visible, particularly an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. The U.S. has 2.8 million fewer jobs than in December 2007, when the recession began. And average hourly wages have trailed inflation in the past three years.

Meanwhile, the federal budget deficit has ballooned, topping $1 trillion each year in President Barack Obama's first term. It is forecast to fall to $845 billion this year. Obama faces the challenge of reducing that gap without cutting it so quickly that it slows growth.

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The campaign promise:

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As pressure builds on immigration, growing network of GOP donors push for path to legal status

BOSTON (AP) — As Congress readies for a drawn-out immigration debate, an expanding network of Republican fundraisers is pressing for a path to legal status for millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally.

Business leaders and donors who raised tens of millions in the last election are meeting with top GOP fundraisers and Republican lawmakers who may be reluctant to support what critics call "amnesty" for immigrants who broke the law.

At the same time, a coalition of fundraisers who support overhauling immigration is funneling donations to a new crop of outside groups designed to protect like-minded congressional Republicans who fear a backlash by GOP's core supporters.

In most cases, the donors have ties to Wall Street and businesses that want more high- and low-skilled immigrants in the nation's legal labor pool. Backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these business-minded Republican fundraisers say they're getting a relatively receptive audience in the face of an undeniable new political reality. Record Hispanic turnout helped President Barack Obama defeat Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney last fall. And projected population growth ensures that immigrants' political clout will grow stronger.

The network of Republican donors is at odds with many on the GOP's right flank — tea party activists among them — who argue for increased border security first and foremost. That was largely the position of Romney, who encouraged immigrants without legal status to "self-deport."

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'The Avengers' takes top prize at MTV Movie Awards; Cooper, Wilson, Lawrence each win 2

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The MTV Movie Awards spread the golden popcorn prizes around, and even included a touch of Bollywood.

"The Avengers" won three awards, including the top prize, movie of the year. "Silver Linings Playbook" also collected three awards. Several stars, including show host Rebel Wilson, won a pair of prizes.

"What's the opposite of humbled? We're Biebered to be standing here," said "Avengers" writer-director Joss Whedon as he accepted the top prize Sunday. "This is the award that means the most to me. I am so grateful and very excited for 2015; we're going to bring you 'Avengers 2.'"

"The Avengers" also won best fight and best villain for actor Tom Hiddleston.

"Silver Linings Playbook" won best performance for stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and best kiss for the on-screen smooch they share. Cooper accepted his award and the kiss prize. Lawrence was not at Sunday's ceremony.

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Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Adam Scott dons green at the Masters and redeems Lytham collapse

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Adam Scott strolled into the room, looking quite dapper in green.

He let out a deep sigh and struggled to contain his emotions — the thoughts of Greg Norman, the folks Down Under, the dad he hugged so tight alongside the 10th green.

It sure felt a lot different than the last time Scott was summoned to the media room at the end of a major championship.

That was Lytham, where he had to answer for throwing away a seemingly sure victory in the British Open with bogeys on the last four holes.

This was Augusta, where he reveled in the biggest win of his career Sunday evening.