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March 1, 2013 at 10:00 PM
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Obama signs order to start sequester cuts

WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Friday signed an order initiating $85 billion in "sequester" cuts after he and congressional leaders failed to reach an agreement.

"This is not a win for anybody," Obama told reporters after the hourlong meeting in remarks reported by ABC News. "This is a loss for the American people."

Obama said the automatic federal spending cuts will go into effect and stressed that, even though they wouldn't be "an apocalypse," the country would pay.

"Not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away. The pain, though, will be real," Obama said. "I don't anticipate a huge financial crisis [such as reaching the debt ceiling], but people are going to be hurt."

The sequester crisis, he said, is "just dumb. And it's going to hurt individuals ... and hurt the economy overall."

In a statement shortly after the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans would maintain their opposition to Democratic proposals that would raise new revenues to offset the cuts.

"The discussion about revenue, in my opinion, is over," he said. "It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington."

He said the House would take up a bill next week to fund the government past March 27, when the current continuing resolution expires.

"I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time," Boehner said. "The House will act next week, and I hope the Senate will follow soon."

Romney gives first interview since loss

WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- In his first major interview since his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney likened the experience to a "roller coaster."

"We were on a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs. But the ride ends," Romney told Fox News. "And then you get off. And it's not like, 'Oh, can't we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life?' It's like, no, the ride's over."

The Republican presidential nominee and his wife, Ann, spoke with Fox News for their first interview since the Nov. 6, 2012, election. Promotional clips of the interview have been released, while the entire piece will be aired on "Fox News Sunday."

"It is an adjustment, but it's one I think we did well," Ann Romney said about the family's transition out of the public eye. "The good news is fortunately we like each other."

She also said the family's service in the Mormon Church prepared them for the transition back to civilian life.

"In our church, we're used to serving, and you know, you can be in a very high position, but you recognize you're serving," she said. "And now all of a sudden, you're released and you're nobody. And we're used to that. It's like, we came and stepped forward to serve. And you know, the other part of it was an amazing thing, and it was really quite a lot of energy and a lot of passion and a lot of -- a lot of people around us and all of a sudden, it was nothing."

Since he lost the election, Mitt Romney's only political statements were to donors on a conference call the week after the election, in which he blamed his overwhelming electoral loss on big-government "gifts" President Barack Obama gave key groups, especially blacks, Latinos and young people.

Drug dealers using cannons to propel drugs

MEXICALI, Mexico, March 1 (UPI) -- Drug smugglers in Mexico are allegedly using air-powered cannons to blast drugs over the border and into the United States, authorities say.

Last week, Mexican authorities confiscated one such cannon in Mexicali, Mexico, which shares a border with Calexico, Calif., CNN reported.

The device was found in the back of an abandoned pickup truck. It was made from a large tub and operated with a compressor connected to the truck, Mexican authorities said. No arrests have been made.

The confiscation of the cannon is the first that U.S. border and customs agents are aware of, a U.S. official said Thursday.

"Well, I've been in [law enforcement] for over 20 years and it seems like within the last five to 10 years they have gotten really, really creative in how they bring their drugs across," said Andy Adame, special operations supervisor for the Joint Field Command Arizona of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"This is the first one that I've seen," he said of the cannon. "That was actually a pretty good one. They are definitely out of the ordinary."

Police report tracks Vegas shooting

LAS VEGAS, March 1 (UPI) -- Las Vegas Police documents released Thursday allege murder suspect Ammar Harris argued with Kenneth Cherry Jr. before killing Cherry and two others.

The warrant arrest report tracks the movements of Harris and Cherry early Feb. 21, using surveillance video from the Aria, Vdara and Bellagio hotels and a taxi dashboard camera, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

The videos suggest Harris and Cherry met briefly outside the Aria, before meeting again on Las Vegas Boulevard, Harris' Range Rover cutting off Cherry's Maserati. Both vehicles had other passengers.

"As the Range Rover pulled into the path of the Maserati a horn sounded and approximately 1 second later, a gunshot was fired," the warrant arrest report said.

The cars sped north and more gunshots followed.

The Maserati later struck a taxi, killing its driver and passenger, the newspaper said.

Harris was arrested Thursday at his Studio City, Calif., apartment, and faces murder, attempted murder and firearms charges, a Clark County, Nev., criminal complaint says.

Berlusconi: Judicial system a 'cancer'

MILAN, Italy, March 1 (UPI) -- Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told an appeals court Friday the Italian judicial system is a "disease" and a "cancer."

Berlusconi has asked the court in Milan to overturn his conviction and four-year prison sentence for tax fraud, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. The "Mediaset" trial, one of three prosecutions facing Berlusconi, involved the sale of television rights in Berlusconi's media empire.

On Friday, Berlusconi told the court he was never involved in the sale of TV rights. He accused prosecutors and judges of having political motives.

"It is clear and evident that it (the judiciary) is a disease of our system, a cancer in our democracy," he said.

Prosecutors asked the court to uphold the sentence.

"I hope this will not be a political sentence because I still have much to do for the good of the country and I'm hoping for a fair judgment," Berlusconi said.

Benedict XVI staying at summer retreat

VATICAN CITY, March 1 (UPI) -- Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, is staying at Castel Gandolfo for two months, then will live in a monastery, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Friday.

Benedict, 85, left the Vatican Thursday after his resignation became official and had a helicopter ride to the papal summer retreat outside of Rome.

The monastery he will later reside in is in the Vatican and under renovation, ANSA reported.

Benedict had a restful first night of retirement, Lombardi said.

"I had a nice telephone conversation with [Benedict's personal secretary Georg Gaenswein], who was very relaxed, and he said that both he and the Holy Father slept very well," the spokesman said.

Benedict left the papacy 2 1/2 weeks after announcing he would resign because he did not have the mental and physical strength to continue leading the Catholic Church.

"Among you is the future pope, to whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience," Benedict said at a meeting of cardinals Thursday.

"I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you are fully accepting of the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope."

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