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March 16, 2013 at 12:00 PM   |   Comments

Pope: Name stands for 'poverty, peace'

VATICAN CITY, March 16 (UPI) -- The Catholic church's new leader, Pope Francis, says he chose the name of a 12th century priest in honor of the poor.

Speaking to journalists at the Vatican, the pope said he decided to adopt the name of St. Francis of Assisi after a colleague told him "don't forget the poor" when the cardinals of the church selected him to succeed the retiring Pope Benedict XVI, the BBC reported Saturday.

The 76-year-old pontiff, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said he immediately thought of the Italian priest because he represented "poverty and peace."

The pope was met with applause from staff and patients at a Rome hospital when he arrived Friday to visit with Argentine Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Mejia was in intensive care at the hospital after suffering a fainting spell.

Pope Francis blessed three other patients in intensive care and then greeted a crowd of people in the lobby.


Ryan: U.S. must cut back on spending

WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- The architect of the House's budget plan said Saturday the federal government must reduce its spending or head "straight into a debt crisis."

Delivering the GOP's weekly media address, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said the budget plan he has developed "lets Washington spend only what it takes in," The Hill reported.

"This is how every family tries to live, in good times and in bad," he added. "Your government should do the same."

Ryan's plan would balance the budget in 10 years by cutting spending, eliminating tax loopholes and lowering tax rates across the board. It would cut Medicare and other entitlements and repeal President's Obama healthcare law.

However, he said his plan would "cut red tape and give states flexibility on how to implement their federal welfare programs."

Tax increases included in a proposal by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would only "fuel more spending," he said.

"We know where this path leads," the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee said. "Straight into a debt crisis, and along the way, fewer jobs, fewer opportunities, and less security."

Evoking the bipartisan efforts of former President Bill Clinton, Ryan called on Obama to work with Republican members of Congress to balance the budget.


Kerry in Turkey for Middle East discussion

ANKARA, Turkey, March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Middle East this weekend during a visit to Turkey in advance of President Obama's trip to Israel.

Turkey is seen by the White House as a key to easing long-running tensions in the Middle East, and Kerry traveled to Ankara to increase the level of the dialogue between the two NATO allies.

Turkish and U.S. officials told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News there were no particular burning issues atop Kerry's agenda.

At the same time, Turkey has been critical of Israel's seeming refusal to compromise in the Middle East peace process. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently raised the ire of members of the U.S. Congress with remarks blasting Zionism.

"At a time when formation of a new coalition government in Israel seems imminent, and U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel is so close, and given the fact that Mr. Obama will also hold meetings with Palestinian leaders, there are certain sticky points which should be treated with utmost care," an anonymous Turkish official told the newspaper. Obama begins a three-day visit to Israel on Wednesday.

Kerry held two telephone discussions with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before boarding his plane to Europe, Hurriyet said.


U.N. official: No consent to drone strikes

UNITED NATIONS, March 16 (UPI) -- A U.N. human rights official says drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty because the country has not agreed to them.

Ben Emmerson, a British lawyer and the United Nations special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, released a statement after a three-day trip to Islamabad Khaama Press reported Friday. He said officials told him there has been no "tacit consent by Pakistan to the use of drones on its territory."

A U.N. human rights team has been gathering information on the strikes.

"Adult males carrying out ordinary daily tasks were frequently the victims of such strikes," it said.

The Obama administration, which has increased the use of drones in Pakistan's tribal areas, has denied reports of hundreds of civilian casualties. The New America Foundation, however, estimates drones have killed between 1,953 and 3,279 people in Pakistan since 2004 -- about one-fifth of them civilians.

The foundation said the strikes have become more accurate, with 90 percent of the casualties in 2012 being militants.


Poll finds growing U.S. support for Israel

PRINCETON, N.J., March 16 (UPI) -- Support for Israel is at a high point in the United States on the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to the Jewish state, a Gallup poll found.

Gallup said Friday its latest survey found 64 percent of Americans consider themselves sympathetic to Israel, compared to 12 percent who say they lean toward the Palestinians and 23 percent who say they are neutral.

Obama heads to Israel next week for the first time since he took office in 2008. He plans to visit Jordan and the Palestinian West Bank.

Gallup said in a written statement the level of support for Israel was the highest in 25 years.

The percentage of Palestinian support has sagged from the high-teens in recent years, and the percentage of the undecided has also shrunk.

"Majorities of all political as well as major demographic groups in America say they sympathize more with the Israelis than the Palestinians -- with minor variations by gender, age, education level, and political orientation," Gallup said.

Ynetnews said Israel's support among the American public hasn't been this high since the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

The Gallup World Affairs poll was conducted Feb. 7-10. The random telephone survey of 1,015 U.S. adults and had a sampling margin of 4 percentage points.


Venezuela spikes plan to display Chavez

CARACAS, Venezuela, March 16 (UPI) -- Venezuela has decided not to embalm the body of late President Hugo Chavez and put it on display, the government's information minister says.

In a Twitter message, Ernesto Villegas said embalming had been ruled out after Russian medical advisers said the body would have to be transported to Russia and remain there for several months, CNN reported Friday.

Acting President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday the embalming process was "quite difficult and that the decision "should have been taken much earlier."

A hearse carrying Chavez's casket was accompanied by thousands of Venezuelans Friday as it traveled 7 1/2 miles from the Military Academy to the Military Museum in Caracas, RIA Novosti reported.

The casket was placed in a marble sarcophagus that was to be available for access Saturday to anyone who wanted to pay tribute to Chavez, who died March 5 at age 58 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Presidential elections are scheduled for April 14.

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