National & International News

We follow stories about America and the world, with help from NPR.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been battling cancer for months, is in a "very delicate" condition, with breathing difficulties and a severe respiratory infection, a government statement says.

The statement, read out Monday by Minister of Communications Ernesto Villegas, spells out the 58-year-old socialist leader's decline since his December surgery in Cuba for an unspecified cancer in the pelvic area:

Roman Catholic cardinals are in "no rush" to set the date for the start of their conclave that will choose the next pope, a Vatican spokesman told reporters Tuesday.

"Flakes are flying in Minnesota and North Dakota, where up to 10 inches of snow has fallen from an 'Alberta Clipper' that is barreling southeastwards across the U.S.," Weather Underground writes this morning.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

The Transportation Security Administration today would not confirm there were any unusual delays in air travel caused by budget cuts.

The government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced today that they would try to merge some of the operations the two companies currently perform separately.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Hunger strikes are often used in India as a method of protest — but try being on one for 12 years.

That's how long it's been since Irom Sharmila last ate on her own. She is protesting an Indian law that suspends human rights guarantees in conflict-ridden parts of the country. The government is force-feeding her through a tube. And on Monday, Sharmila was charged with attempted suicide.

Batman has apparently given up Gotham for a stint in the northern English town of Bradford.

West Yorkshire Police, today, released a photograph of a man dressed in a Batman costume turning in a wanted man. According to the BBC, after Batman turned the man in, the caped superhero turned around and disappeared into the night.

There are more than 1,400 billionaires in the world right now, according to two sources — one in the U.S., and one in China. But the tallies by Forbes and Hurun Report differ on key points, including whether there are now more billionaires in Asia than anywhere else.

The historic presidential election in Kenya turned violent in two polling stations near the border with Somalia on Monday.

NPR's Gregory Warner reports from Nairobi that the attack marred what had been an otherwise peaceful day. He filed this report for our Newscast unit:

The sweeping anti-immigration law passed by Arizona in 2010, received another buffet today: A panel of the the San Francisco-based U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stood with a lower court, ruling that a ban on drivers soliciting day laborers violates the constitution's free speech guarantee.

Bloomberg News does a good job at laying out the legal issues in the case:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect on Friday are already causing headaches at the nation's airports.

"Now that we are having to reduce or eliminate basically overtime both for TSA and for customs, now that we have instituted a hiring freeze... we will begin today sending out furlough notices," Napolitano said, according to Politico.

The head of a California retirement home where a nurse last week refused to administer CPR to an elderly woman says his staff followed policy in handling the emergency.

In a written statement, Jeffrey Toomer, the executive director of Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, Calif., says it is the facility's practice "to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives. ... That is the protocol we followed."

Rats have been a problem for many years in Tehran. As the BBC reported in 2000, officials back then launched a poison control program that they hoped would kill many of the estimated 25 million rats in the city.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus is due to leave office this week. But, today, the country's upper house of Parliament handed him quite a going-away gift: They impeached him for treason and referred his case to the Constitutional Court.

Reuters reports that his left-wing opponents are angry because he granted amnesty to thousands of prisoners. The court will decide whether those pardons violated the constitution

Reuters adds:

There's uncertainty over the supposed death of two top al-Qaida-affiliated leaders reportedly killed in West Africa.

Calling them "three outstanding individuals" who will help him tackle some tough problems, President Obama on Monday morning nominated:

-- Gina McCarthy, currently an assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, to lead that agency. She would succeed the departed Lisa Jackson.

-- Ernest Moniz to be the next secretary of energy, replacing Steven Chu, who like Jackson decided not to stay for Obama's second term. Moniz is director of MIT's Energy Initiative and is a former undersecretary at the department.

The phrase "jump the shark" is coming to mind this morning. The "Harlem Shake" craze does seem to be getting to the point where it's getting out of hand.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II was just seen leaving London's King Edward VII hospital, where she had been admitted over the weekend to be treated for symptoms of gastroenteritis.

If former NBA star Dennis Rodman's read on Kim Jong Un is correct, the CIA and State Department might be in need of a major overhaul in their assessments of the North Korean leader.

Rodman, the only American to have met and talked with Kim, appeared on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos to talk about his two-day visit to North Korea last week.

As they begin the process that will lead to selection of the next pope, the Roman Catholic Church's cardinals must first decide just when to officially start deciding, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reminds us from Rome this morning.

A young couple head to a hospital because the wife, who is about seven months pregnant, isn't feeling well. Then, tragedy strikes.

It's a heartbreaking story that is making headlines in New York City.

The grim work continues at a home near Tampa, Fla., where a man apparently died last week when a sinkhole opened up under his bedroom.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Dozens of people are dead in the Pakistani port city of Karachi following a blast Sunday near a Shiite mosque.

Update at 3:16 p.m. ET Toll Rises

Authorities now say at least 37 people were killed and another 141 wounded in the blast.

Our original post:

Here's more from The Associated Press:

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is in hospital where she's being treated for symptoms of gastroenteritis.

NPR's Philip Reeves is reporting on the story for out Newscast unit. Here's what he says:

The Dragon has been captured. The SpaceX unmanned craft connected with the International Space Station at 5:31 a.m. ET, NASA tweeted. The spacecraft arrived a day late due to mechanical problems after Friday's launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, in apparent response to Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks last week in support of opposition forces in Syria, says only the Syrian people can tell him to step down.

"Only Syrian people can tell the president stay or leave, come or go. No one else," he said in an interview to Britain's Sunday Times.

It was a rare TV interview for the Syrian president, whose regime has battled rebels as well as calls to step down for nearly two years.

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