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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — He's getting better. He's getting worse. He's already dead. The whole thing is a conspiracy and he was never sick in the first place. The obsessive, circular conversations about President Hugo Chavez's health dominate family dinners, plaza chit-chats and social media sites in this country on edge since its larger-than-life leader went to Cuba for emergency cancer surgery more than two weeks ago. The man whose booming voice once dominated the airwaves for hours at a time has not been seen or heard from since.
HOUSTON (AP) — Former President George H.W. Bush remained in intensive care at a Houston hospital on Friday but his condition continues to improve, a spokesman said. "The President is alert and, as always, in good spirits — and his exchanges with doctors and nurses now include singing," family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a brief statement.
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan's leading arts college has pushed boundaries before in this conservative nation. But when a series of paintings depicting Muslim clerics in scenes with strong homosexual overtones sparked an uproar and threats of violence by Islamic extremists, it was too much.
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota State University, Mankato, head football coach Todd Hoffner, who was cleared of child pornography charges last month that stemmed from videos found on his cellphone of his naked children clowning around after a bath, is suing to keep the police investigative reports sealed.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Energy companies behind the oil boom on the Northern Plains are increasingly turning to an industrial-age workhorse — the locomotive — to move their crude to refineries across the U.S., as plans for new pipelines stall and existing lines can't keep up with demand. Delivering oil thousands of miles by rail from the heartland to refineries on the East, West and Gulf coasts costs more, but it can mean increased profits — up to $10 or more a barrel — because of higher oil prices on the coasts. That works out to about $700,000 per train.
BEIRUT (AP) — A government airstrike on a town in north Syria on Friday killed 14 people, mostly women and children, anti-regime activists said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the 14 were killed in a strike on the town of al-Safira, south of the northern city of Aleppo. The dead included two women and eight children.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama was preparing to present a limited fiscal proposal to congressional leaders at a White House meeting Friday, a make-or-break moment for negotiations to avoid across-the-board tax increases and deep spending cuts at the first of the year. Lawmakers and White House officials held out a slim hope for a deal before the new year, but it remained unclear whether congressional passage of legislation palatable to both sides was even possible.
NEW YORK (AP) — The union for longshoremen along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico has agreed to extend its contract for 30 days, averting a possible strike that could have crippled operations at ports that handle about 40 percent of all U.S. container cargo, a federal mediator announced Friday. The extension came after the union and an alliance of port operators and shipping lines resolved one of the stickier points in their months-long contract negotiations, involving royalty payments to the longshoremen for each container they unload.
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A statue of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees is on display in the former Warsaw Ghetto, the place where so many Jews were killed or sent to their deaths by Hitler's regime, and it is provoking mixed reactions. The work, "HIM" by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, has drawn many visitors since it was installed last month. It is visible only from a distance, and the artist doesn't make explicit what Hitler is praying for, but the broader point, organizers say, is to make people reflect on the nature of evil.
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) — Tens of thousands of Iraqi Sunnis angry over perceived second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government massed along a major western highway and elsewhere in the country Friday for the largest protests yet in a week of demonstrations. The well-organized rallies, which took place after traditional Friday prayers, underscore the strength of a tenacious protest movement that appears to be gathering support among Sunnis, whose sense of grievance has been increased by arrests and prosecutions that they feel underscore Shiite political dominance.