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March 13, 2013 at 11:59 AM   |   Comments

Cardinals in 'good mood' as voting resumes

VATICAN CITY, March 13 (UPI) -- Catholic cardinals were in good spirits Wednesday despite failing to reach a consensus on a new pope after three rounds of voting, a Vatican official said.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi described the church leaders as in "a good mood," the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Black smoke billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel Wednesday morning signaled the selection of a new pope was still elusive. Two more votes are scheduled after lunch.

Votes are taken four times a day, but smoke is sent up no more than twice a day.

Once the conclave elects a successor to Benedict, who resigned in February, the announcement will be made by white smoke rising from the chimney and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica ringing.

Despite chilly, rainy weather, crowds were in St. Peter's square, awaiting the outcome of the day's voting, ANSA reported.


Obama eyes 'common sense caucus' on budget

WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) -- President Obama says he is trying to identify a "common sense caucus" of members of Congress who can reach a compromise on the budget crisis.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulus, Obama said his strategy was to find members of the U.S. House and Senate "who are just tired of having the same argument over and over again," ABC News reported Wednesday.

With this group, which he referred to as the "common sense caucus," "we can do sensible deficit reduction with a combination of entitlement reform, some judicious spending cuts, closing some tax loopholes that nobody really defends on their own."

Rather than the arbitrary cuts created by the sequestration, the president said, "we can actually put in place a growth strategy that creates jobs and protects the middle class and helps them thrive and grow."

He added there were only "a finite number of changes that could be made to deal with our deficit."

In recent dinner meetings with congressional leaders, Obama said he had discovered that "people don't always know what I've actually proposed. And it's a lot easier to have a conversation when there's something specific."


Witness: Wrong man imprisoned for 25 years

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 13 (UPI) -- An expert witness testified that shoddy work by investigators in Florida left an innocent, mentally challenged teenager in prison for more than 25 years.

Melvin Tucker told a federal court jury in Fort Lauderdale that people with mental challenges may confess to crimes they didn't commit, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Tucker, a former police chief and law enforcement instructor, was on the witness stand in a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Anthony Caravella.

Caravella, now 44 years old, was freed from prison in September 2009 after DNA testing exonerated him in the 1983 rape and murder of a Miramar, Fla. woman.

His lawyers are seeking unspecified damages and compensation for his time in prison.

Tucker told jurors Tuesday that there were several problems with the police investigation. They included failing to pursue more likely suspects, not writing complete reports and contaminating evidence.

He termed the effort "shoddy, incomplete (and) not an objective investigation."


Terrorists use kids for bomb attacks

QUETTA, Pakistan, March 13 (UPI) -- A gang of 11 Pakistani children has been arrested in connection with a series of bomb explosions in suburban Quetta, police said Wednesday.

The children, ranging in age from 11 to 18-years-old, were detained Tuesday night following an operation directed by a Baloch separatist group that managed to escape the scene, Dawn News reported.

Spokesman Zubair Mehmood, said the children told Capital City police they were paid between $20 and $50 per blast. They admitted involvement in more than a dozen bomb explosions.

All of the children came from extremely poor or down-trodden families, Mehmood said.

He said terrorists are using children to carry out incidents at crowded locations in Quetta.


Rain in Spain triggers flooding

MADRID, March 13 (UPI) -- Flooding in southern Spain has prompted the evacuation of more than 200 people, authorities in Andalusia said.

Regional officials said the Guadalquivir and Aguacebas rivers were causing most of the problems, The Local.se reported Wednesday.

The district of Mogon evacuated 180 people while 40 residents of Villafranca de Cordoba were forced to leave their homes.

An emergency plan was put into effect in Ecija in Seville province after several streets in the lower town became impassable.

The Genil River in Palma del Rio flooded farming areas.

Weather forecasters said conditions were expected to improve across Andalusia Wednesday but Cadiz would remain on yellow alert due to strong winds.

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