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March 12, 2013 at 4:56 PM   |   Comments

Black smoke means no new pope yet

VATICAN CITY, March 12 (UPI) -- Black smoke poured from a chimney on the Vatican's Sistine Chapel Tuesday, signalling cardinals had failed to elect a successor to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

But the 115 Roman Catholic cardinals locked in conclave Tuesday had no deadline for their decision to replace Benedict, who retired Feb. 28.

If the cardinals had succeeded in electing a pope -- an unlikely event on their first day in conclave -- the smoke would have been white. Burning the ballots alone produces white smoke. Burning the ballots with a chemical added -- it used to be damp straw -- produces black smoke, meaning no new pope yet.

Earlier, each cardinal put his hand on a Bible and swore an oath to vote fairly before taking a seat for meditation, CBS News reported.

At least 77 of the 115 cardinal electors must agree on a candidate to become the 266th pope.

French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran will announce the name of Benedict XVI's successor as pope to the world, the Vatican said.


White House rips Ryan budget plan

WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., proposed a plan he said will balance the budget by 2023 but the White House said "the math doesn't add up."

The plan proposed Tuesday by Ryan -- the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012 -- relies on the same proposals contained in his 2012 campaign to balance the budget in 10 years, The New York Times reported. Called the "Pathway to Prosperity," as it was during the campaign, the plan would cut spending by $4.6 trillion through 2023 by rolling back President Barack Obama's legislative accomplishments while taking advantage of the savings they created, the Times said.

"While the House Republican budget aims to reduce the deficit, the math just doesn't add up," the White House said in a statement. "Deficit reduction that asks nothing from the wealthiest Americans has serious consequences for the middle class. By choosing to give the wealthiest Americans a new tax cut, this budget as written will either fail to achieve any meaningful deficit reduction, raise taxes on middle class families by more than $2,000 -- or both."

The White House said Ryan's plan does not "ask for a single dime of deficit reduction from closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and well-connected," but calls for "deep cuts to investments like education and research -- investments critical to creating jobs and growing the middle class. And to save money, this budget would turn Medicare into a voucher program -- undercutting the guaranteed benefits that seniors have earned and forcing them to pay thousands more out of their own pockets."


McConnell: Debt limit talks in summer

WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- A top U.S. Senate Republican said Tuesday he expects President Obama will ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling again this summer.

In 2011, the debate over the deficit nearly led to default and brought a downgrade of U.S. securities for the first time before an 11th-hour deal to raise the borrowing limit by $2.1 trillion.

"We all anticipate that the president's request of us to raise the debt ceiling, which will come due sometime this summer, will generate another ... discussion about solving the real problem," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. "And we all know the only way to straighten America out is to fix the entitlement issue. Nothing else will get the job done. Only that."

McConnell said he hoped the president "will be willing to step up with us and solve that problem. We're ready to talk about that. And I think the outreach that he's been having is a good thing."

Obama is set to meet with Senate Republicans Thursday after meeting with different congressional groups this week.

McConnell signaled no room for revenue growth, including closing tax loopholes as the president has requested.


Rodman announces return to North Korea

FARGO, N.D., March 12 (UPI) -- Former basketball star Dennis Rodman said he plans to return to North Korea in August to vacation with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Rodman, 51, in North Dakota for a promotional event, told KXJB-TV, Fargo, in an interview Monday, "I don't condone what he does, but he's my friend."

A spokesman for Rodman said the invitation to return was offered during his visit to North Korea two weeks ago.

The visit came at a time of heightened tension between the United States and North Korea, over North Korea's pursuit of a nuclear program, CNN said Tuesday.

Rodman and Kim sat together at a basketball exhibition in Pyongyang on Feb. 28, days before North Korea announced it would scrap the Korea Was armistice agreement and threatened South Korea with war.

Kim is known to be a basketball fan, CNN said.


Baby, shot during diaper change, dies

CHICAGO, March 12 (UPI) -- A 6-month-old girl died Tuesday, one day after she and her father were shot while he changed her diaper in a parked minivan in Chicago, police said.

The baby, Jonylah Watkins, was struck by at least one bullet, authorities said, and died after surgery in Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago. Her father, Jonathan Watkins, 29, was hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious-to-critical condition with a bullet wound to his left side and right buttock. A bullet also grazed his face, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a Tuesday news conference.

Police said the shooter approached on foot shortly before 1 p.m. and began firing while Watkins was standing by the minivan's open front passenger door and the infant lay on the front seat, the Chicago Tribune reported.

After shooting the father and baby, the gunman ran to a nearby parking lot and got in a blue conversion van, police said.

No arrests had been made but McCarthy said investigators were "pursuing several angles."

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