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March 8, 2013 at 12:13 PM   |   Comments

Papal conclave to begin Tuesday

VATICAN CITY, March 8 (UPI) -- The Vatican announced the papal conclave to replace Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will begin Tuesday.

The final participant in the conclave, Vietnamese Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, arrived in Rome Thursday, though Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said a date for the conclave has yet to be set, ANSA reported.

The cardinals are currently in meetings, getting to know one another and discussing the challenges that face the Roman Catholic Church, The New York Times reported.

Before they stopped giving interviews Wednesday, some of the cardinals said they are looking for a charismatic pontiff who also has the grit to tackle scandal in the Vatican.

"The first thing he has to do is put greater order in the central administration of the Curia," said Cardinal Edward Egan, the retired archbishop of New York. "He has to be willing to take criticism."

"He has to be a man who understands the faith and can announce it in an attractive and uncomplicated way," he added.


Unemployment ticks down to 7.7 percent

WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in February on a gain of 236,000 jobs, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

The rate matches the figure from November of last year, which was the lowest jobless rate since December 2008.

Economists had expected the February rate to remain unchanged at 7.9 percent.

"The unemployment rate ... has shown little movement, on net, since September 2012," the Labor Department said after revising its estimate of January gains from 157,000 to 119,000.

At the same time, the department tweaked its December figure higher, estimating 219,000 jobs were added in the final month of 2012, rather than 196,000 as previously reported.

The department said professional and business services added 73,000 jobs in February after a gain of 16,000 in January.

Consistent with Wednesday's Automatic Data Processing Inc. report on private-sector jobs, the government said the bulk of February's gain came in service-oriented positions.


Bin Laden relative pleads not guilty

NEW YORK, March 8 (UPI) -- Sulaamin Abu Ghaith, son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, pleaded not guilty in a New York federal courtroom Friday to a charge of plotting to kill Americans.

Ghaith, who is married to Fatima bin Laden and is an al-Qaida propagandist, hardly spoke beyond one-word replies to questions from the judge during the 20-minute arraignment, The New York Times reported. His lawyer pleaded not guilty on his behalf.

Federal prosecutors asked that Ghaith remain in custody. His lawyer did not object, but left open the possibility of seeking bail later.

Prosecutors said Ghaith had was captured Feb. 28 in Amman, Jordan, and brought the United States the following day.

Prosecutors told the court he answered questions from U.S. interrogators after he was taken into custody, giving basically a 22-page statement, the Times said.


Sequester forces Border Protection cuts

WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it has notified about 60,000 employees responsible for securing borders and faciliting trade of impending furloughs.

The agency must cut about $754 million from its budget by Sept. 30 as part of the automatic government spending cuts known as the sequester.

David Aguilar, the agency's deputy commissioner, said it will make the cuts with agency-wide furloughs, a hiring freeze and reducing or eliminating overtime, compensatory time, travel and training, CNN reported.

Employees were notified Thursday of the changes.

The furloughs will begin in mid-April, the agency said.

The agency "continues to evaluate further impacts of sequestration" on its operations, Customs spokeswoman Jenny Burke said.

"Even with these cuts, though, individuals apprehended illegally crossing the southwest border will still be processed as usual," she said.

Other agencies are making similar cuts to reduce their budgets.


Egyptian police on strike

CAIRO, March 8 (UPI) -- More than 30 police stations were closed across Egypt to protest the way the Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim operates, a ministry statement said.

The statement said police stations in Cairo, Giza, Ismailia, Port Said, Minya, Sohag, Daqahlia, Gharbiya, Sharqiya and Alexandria were closed Thursday and many Central Security Forces departments were on strike nationwide, Ahram Online reported.

Police officers want the ministry to properly outfit them for riot situations, and they seek Ibrahim's dismissal.

Security leaders were reviewing the officers' demands and trying to convince them to return to their jobs, a source said in a report from Egypt's Middle East News Agency.

The first of the Central Security Forces protests began Tuesday in Mansoura, then spread to Suez Canal cities.

In the Suez city of Port Said Thursday, clashes between security forces and demonstrators left 35 people injured, including two who were struck by live rounds of ammunition, al-Masry al-Youm reported.

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