AP News in Brief at 4:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on February 17, 2013 at 6:02 AM

Updated Sunday, Feb 17 at 6:02 AM

Report: White House immigration bill in the works would lay out an 8-year path to legal status

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is circulating a draft immigration bill that would create a new visa for illegal immigrants living in the United States and allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years, according to a report published online Saturday by USA Today.

President Barack Obama's bill would create a "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. The bill includes more security funding and requires business owners to adopt a system for verifying the immigration status of new hires within four years, the newspaper said.

USA Today reported that the bill would require that immigrants pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. Immigrants who served more than a year in prison for a criminal conviction or were convicted of three or more crimes and were sentenced to a total of 90 days in jail would not be eligible. Crimes committed in other countries that would bar immigrants from legally entering the country would also be ineligible.

Those immigrants facing deportation would be eligible to apply for the visa, the newspaper reported. Immigrants would be eligible to apply for a green card within eight years, if they learn English and U.S. history and government, and they would later be eligible to become U.S. citizens.

Last month a bipartisan group of senators announced they had agreed on the general outline of an immigration plan. For his part, Obama has said he would not submit his own legislation to Congress so long as law makers acted "in a timely manner." If they failed, he said, "I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."

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Rafael Correa, Ecuador's leftist president, expected to coast to re-election for 3rd term

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Rafael Correa, a dynamic, polemical economist whose leftist government has won broad backing from the lower classes as it leads Latin America in social spending, is expected to sail to a second re-election Sunday as the Andean nation's president.

His leading opponent, former Banco de Guayaquil executive president Guillermo Lasso, trailed Correa in pre-election polls by more than 20 points in the field of eight candidates.

Correa, 48, has brought uncharacteristic political stability to an oil-exporting nation of 14.6 million people that cycled through seven presidents in the decade before he first took office in 2007.

He won re-election in April 2009 after voters approved a constitutional rewrite that mandated a new ballot, and he would be legally barred from running again following a victory Sunday.

To avoid a run-off, Correa needed a simple majority or 40 percent of the vote plus a 10-point margin over the No. 2 vote-getter.

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Survivors join others in 10th year remembrance of 100 who died in RI nightclub fire

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — Survivors and family members of the 100 people killed in a Rhode Island nightclub fire are observing the 10th anniversary of the blaze, which broke out when pyrotechnics for the rock band Great White ignited flammable packing foam that had been installed inside the club as soundproofing.

The anniversary is Wednesday. The group organized a 1 p.m. service Sunday at the West Warwick site of the fire, where survivors, victims' families, a surgeon who helped in the tragedy, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and former Gov. Don Carcieri plan to make remarks.

The names of the dead will be read aloud, and The Station Fire Memorial Foundation is to unveil its final plans to build a permanent memorial at the site. A makeshift memorial that includes handmade crosses, photos and mementos of the dead now marks the site.

The permanent memorial will include the name of each person who died, as well as commemorate the survivors, first responders and those who helped care for families of the dead and survivors in the weeks and months after the fire. It will also include a gazebo.

Families will be asked to remove personal mementos from the site. Those items that are left behind will be buried in a capsule under what is now the parking lot. There will be no digging on the land under where the club once stood because of the fear of disturbing human remains.

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For top Obama aide Munoz, immigration overhaul would be culmination of long journey

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cecilia Munoz, President Barack Obama's chief domestic policy adviser, keeps a framed letter from the late Democratic senator and immigration advocate Ted Kennedy in her West Wing office.

"We didn't complete the journey, but we'll get there," Kennedy wrote in 2007 following the collapse of bipartisan efforts to overhaul the nation's fractured immigration system.

For Munoz, a veteran of that fight and many earlier ones, completing the journey has never felt more possible. As head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, it's Munoz leading Obama's effort to break through years of partisan gridlock and provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of people living illegally in the United States.

"There is a definite lift in her step," said Valerie Jarrett, Obama's senior adviser. "But she's not taking anything for granted."

Sharp shifts in the political landscape have put an immigration overhaul tantalizingly close for Munoz and the president. Hispanics made up 10 percent of the electorate in the November election, and Obama won two-thirds of their votes, in part because of the conservative immigration positions staked out by Republicans during their nominating contest.

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Daughter of WWII soldier to receive Purple Heart stashed away for decades in So. Cal

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hyla Merin grew up without a father and for a long time never knew why.

Her mother never spoke about the Army officer who died before Hyla was born. The scraps of information she gathered from other relatives were hazy: 2nd Lt. Hyman Markel was a rabbi's son, brilliant at mathematics, the brave winner of a Purple Heart who died sometime in 1945.

Aside from wedding photos of Markel in uniform, Merin never glimpsed him.

But on Sunday, decades after he won it, Merin will receive her father's Purple Heart, along with a Silver Star she never knew he'd won and a half-dozen other medals.

"It just confirms what a great man he was," Merin said tearfully. "He gave up his life for our country and our freedom. I'll put it up in my house as a memorial to him and to those who served."

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Officials: Series of bombs in Baghdad kill at least 28 and wound dozens

BAGHDAD (AP) — A series of car bombs exploded within minutes of each other in and around Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 28 people and wounding dozens in overwhelmingly Shiite areas.

The attacks come amid rising sectarian discord in Iraq. The explosions, mostly in outdoor markets, struck at the start of the local work week and appeared aimed at causing mass casualties among residents going about their morning shopping.

Violence in Iraq has fallen since the height of sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, but insurgents still launch lethal attacks frequently against security forces and civilians in an attempt to undermine the Shiite-led government.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but similar ones have been orchestrated by Sunni extremists, such as al-Qaida's local arm. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, favors large-scale, coordinated attacks. It frequently targets Shiite Muslims.

Police and hospital officials provided the death toll, and said more than 80 people were wounded. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters.

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Pakistani governor says security agencies too scared to act after massive bomb kills 81

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — The governor of a province in southwestern Pakistan where 81 people died in a massive bombing says security officials are too scared of retribution from terrorists to do their jobs.

Governor Zulfiqar Magsi said Sunday that Saturday's bombing in the city of Quetta was the result of a failure of the security and intelligence agencies in the province.

More than 160 other people were wounded when the blast ripped through a vegetable market where people were buying produce.

Most of the dead and wounded were Shiite Muslims.

The minority sect has often been targeted by Sunni extremists who view them as heretics and not real Muslims.

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City of broken glass: Russian region labors to replace acres of windows smashed in meteor fall

CHELYABINSK, Russia (AP) — As a small army of people worked to replace acres of windows shattered by the enormous explosion from a meteor, many joked on Saturday about what had happened in this troubled pocket of Russia.

One of the most popular jests: Residents of the meteor were terrified to see Chelyabinsk approaching.

The fireball that streaked into the sky over this tough industrial city at about sunrise Friday was undeniably traumatic. Nearly 1,200 people were reported injured by the shock wave from the explosion, estimated to be as strong as 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

But it also brought a sense of cooperation in a troubled region. Large numbers of volunteers came forward to help fix the damage caused by the explosion and many residents came together on the Internet — first to find out what happened and soon to make jokes.

Chelyabinsk, nicknamed Tankograd because it produced the famed Soviet T-34 tanks, can be as grim as its backbone heavy industries. Long winters where temperatures routinely hit minus-30 Celsius (minus-22 Fahrenheit) add to a general dour mien, as do worries about dangerous facilities in the surrounding region.

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Latest try at new assault weapons ban would exempt more than 2,200 specific firearms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress' latest crack at a new assault weapons ban would protect more than 2,200 specific firearms, including a semi-automatic rifle that is nearly identical to one of the guns used in the bloodiest shootout in FBI history.

One model of that firearm, the Ruger .223 caliber Mini-14, is on the proposed list to be banned, while a different model of the same gun is on a list of exempted firearms in legislation the Senate is considering. The gun that would be protected from the ban has fixed physical features and can't be folded to be more compact. Yet the two firearms are equally deadly.

"What a joke," said former FBI agent John Hanlon, who survived the 1986 shootout in Miami. He was shot in the head, hand, groin and hip with a Ruger Mini-14 that had a folding stock. Two FBI agents died and five others were wounded.

Hanlon recalled lying on the street as brass bullet casings showered on him. He thought the shooter had an automatic weapon.

Both models of the Ruger Mini-14 specified in the proposed bill can take detachable magazines that hold dozens of rounds of ammunition. "I can't imagine what the difference is," Hanlon said.

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Reality TV show featuring model shot, killed at Pistorius' house airs in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Reeva Steenkamp's last wish for her family before she was shot dead at boyfriend Oscar Pistorius' home was for them to watch her in a reality TV show that went on air in South Africa on Saturday night, two days after her killing.

Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva's cousin, told The Associated Press that the model and law graduate was "proud of being in the show" and reminded them in their last conversation to make sure that they watched it.

The South African Broadcasting Corp. aired the "Tropika Island of Treasure" program, showing the late Steenkamp — the victim of a Valentine's Day shooting at the home of Pistorius, the Olympic star and double-amputee athlete. She is laughing and smiling, and blowing a kiss toward the camera in Jamaica when it was filmed last year.

South Africans also saw her swimming in the ocean and watching people jump off a cliff and into the sea, shaking her head as they leaped.

SABC said it was dedicated to Steenkamp and displayed the words "Reeva Steenkamp 19 August 1983 - 14 February 2013" between images of a rose and a candle in a short tribute before the show aired. She was also seen blowing the kiss as she sat on a Jamaican beach and her name again appeared on screen with the years of her birth and death.

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