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Feb. 4, 2013 at 9:36 PM
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Obama: Boy Scouts should end ban on gays

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The Boy Scouts of America should end its ban on gays, President Barack Obama said as the organization's board was to mull lifting the ban at a meeting to begin Monday.

"Yes," Obama said in a one-word answer when asked by CBS News in a Super Bowl pregame interview if the Boy Scouts should be open to gay members and leaders.

Asked to elaborate, Obama said, "Gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life.

"The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think that nobody should be barred from that," Obama said.

Obama last year backed the right of same-sex couples to marry and voiced his support for gay rights in his second inaugural address two weeks ago.

Kerry speaks to Japan, S. Korea FM's

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The United States joined Japan and South Korea in warning North Korea of "significant consequences" if it conducts another nuclear test.

The warnings came Sunday after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the telephone with Foreign Ministers Fumio Kishida of Japan and Kim Sung-hwan of South Korea, CNN reported, quoting a summary of the calls provided by the U.S. State Department.

The three agreed the North must understand "it will face significant consequences from the international community if it continues its provocative behavior," the State Department said.

North Korea has been signaling its intentions to conduct its third nuclear test after the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution last month to tighten existing sanctions against the Communist country for its December long-range rocket firing to place a satellite in space in violation of the sanctions. North Korea conducted its previous two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The United States and South Korea are conducting joint naval exercises off the Korean Peninsula this week.

Indian president signs rape ordinance

NEW DELHI, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Indian President Pranab Mukherjee signed an ordinance on sexual assault despite objections by women's rights groups that said the measure was weak.

The ordinance incorporates some of the recommendations of a government-appointed commission in the aftermath of a fatal gang rape in Delhi that led to demonstrations worldwide.

Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram and Information Minister Manish Tewari said Monday the ordinance was signed during the weekend and is law while a bill works its way through the Parliament, NDTV reported.

Among other things, the ordinance introduces tougher jail terms for crimes against women, including the death penalty for "extreme" cases of rape.

The ordinance replaced the word "rape" with "sexual assault" and included acid attacks and stalking among chargeable sexual-assault offenses.

The day after the Indian Cabinet passed the ordinance, women's groups criticized the move, NDTV said.

"We are alarmed at the complete lack of transparency shown by the government," several groups said in a joint statement issued before Mukherjee signed the measure.

The women's organizations said the government ignored all recommendations that could have empowered women.

Fidel Castro votes in Cuba's elections

HAVANA, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro voted in the country's parliamentary elections, his first public appearance in months, Cuba's state media reported Monday.

The 86-year-old former communist leader was seen voting at a polling station where he spent some time talking to other voters and to the media, Cuba's state-run media said.

Castro was stooped over and his voice seemed weak, the BBC said.

A crowd surrounded his car and cheered him as he left.

More than 600 delegates in the National Assembly will approve the candidates for Cuba's key political positions. With President Raul Castro, the younger brother of Fidel, already 81, the choice of vice presidents and ministers could provide an indication about who might be a successor, the BBC said.

All candidates were chosen by the ruling Communist Party or its affiliated associations.

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