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  |   Feb. 24, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Raul Castro says will step down in 5 years

HAVANA, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Raul Castro said the second five-year term as Cuba's president to which he was elected Sunday would be his last.

"I would like to make clear ... this will be my last term," CNN quoted the 81-year-old leader of the Communist island nation as saying during a televised speech.

Cuba's National Assembly named Miguel Diaz-Canel, an engineer in his early 50s, to be Castro's first vice president, CNN reported. Diaz-Canel has served as minister of higher education and vice president of the council of ministers.

Castro called the selection of Diaz-Canel a "definitive step in the configuration of the future leadership of the country, through the gradual and organized transfer to the new generation taking over the main roles."

Castro became acting president in 2006 when his older brother Fidel fell ill and was officially elected to a five-year term in 2008.

Voice of America reported Fidel Castro received a standing ovation when he made a rare public appearance at the National Assembly's opening session in Havana.


White House: All 50 states will lose

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The White House, putting pressure on Republicans, issued a breakdown Sunday of the impact of the looming sequestration on each of the 50 U.S. states.

Across the board budget cuts go into effect Friday unless Congress and the administration reach a compromise. Republicans want to trim back entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, while Democrats want to close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy to raise more revenue.

"Unless Congress acts by March 1, a series of automatic cuts -- called the sequester -- will take effect that threaten hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform," a White House statement said.

"There is no question that we need to cut the deficit, but the president believes it should be done in a balanced way that protects investments that the middle class relies on. Already, [President Obama] has worked with Congress to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, but there's more to do ... .

"Unfortunately, many Republicans in Congress refuse to ask the wealthy to pay a little more by closing tax loopholes so that we can protect investments that are helping grow our economy and keep our country safe. By not asking the wealthy to pay a little more, Republicans are forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit."

In U.S. House Speaker John Boehner's state of Ohio, the breakdown said, among a list of things the state stands to lose includes "approximately $25.1 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 350 teacher and aide jobs at risk."

"In addition," the statement continued, "about 34,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 100 fewer schools would receive funding.

"In addition, Ohio will lose approximately $22 million in funds for about 270 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities."


Searched called off for Miss Ally victims

WOODS HARBOUR, Nova Scotia, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The search for five crew members of the Miss Ally, which capsized off the coast of Nova Scotia, was called off Sunday, authorities said.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the search for the commercial fishing boat's crew was suspended indefinitely after photos taken by the navy's remote underwater vehicle confirmed there were no bodies in the overturned and heavily damaged boat, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

A private dive team searched the wreck Saturday with the same results.

The 44-foot boat, based out of Woods Harbour, capsized during a ferocious storm the night of Feb. 17.

A Baptist church in Woods Harbour filled with congregation members Sunday morning for a service for the missing crew members, the CBC said.


Japanese tot starves with mom gone

OIZUMI, Japan, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A Japanese toddler has died of apparent starvation after her mother left her in a 14-year-old sister's care while she was out of the country.

Police said the mother left the teenage daughter with food and money when she left Oizumi, Japan, to visit her native Philippines Feb. 9. On Feb. 18, the teen called emergency dispatchers when the toddler, 3, collapsed. Police said there were no outward signs of trauma but suspected starvation was to blame.

The mother, 37, who was not identified by police, may face a charge of abandonment leading to death, Japan Today said Friday.

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