Hugo Chavez returns home to Venezuela after more than 2 months of cancer treatment in Cuba
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he has returned home to Venezuela after more than two months of medical treatment in Cuba following cancer surgery.
Chavez says in a message on his Twitter account that he had arrived in Venezuela. He says "we will continue our treatment here."
White House: Backup immigration plan being offered only in case Congress fails
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is downplaying its draft proposal as merely a backup plan if lawmakers don't come up with an immigration overhaul of their own. It won't be necessary, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike are telling the Obama administration.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday that President Barack Obama wants to "be prepared" in case the small bipartisan group of senators fails to devise a plan for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. In response, lawmakers assured the White House they are working on their own plan — and warned that Obama would be heading toward failure if the White House gets ahead of them.
"We will be prepared with our own plan if these ongoing talks between Republicans and Democrats up on Capitol Hill break down," McDonough said, adding he's optimistic they would not crumble.
But he was equally realistic about the fierce partisanship on Capitol Hill.
"Well, let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed," McDonough said of the president's pitch, first reported on USA Today's website late Saturday.
Country star Mindy McCready dies in apparent suicide after chart-topping career, stormy life
HEBER SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Perhaps there was one heartbreak too many for Mindy McCready.
The former country star appears to have taken her own life Sunday afternoon in Heber Springs, Ark. Authorities say McCready died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head and an autopsy is planned. She was 37, the mother of two young sons.
If confirmed, it was at least her fourth suicide attempt since 2005, ending a series of tumultuous public events that marked much of the singer's adult life.
Speaking to The Associated Press in 2010, McCready smiled wryly while talking about the string of issues she'd dealt with over the last half-decade.
"It is a giant whirlwind of chaos all the time," she said of her life. "I call my life a beautiful mess and organized chaos. It's just always been like that. My entire life things have been attracted to me and vice versa that turn into chaotic nightmares or I create the chaos myself. I think that's really the life of a celebrity, of a big, huge, giant personality."
Agent: Pistorius focused on defending himself against 'serious charge,' future races canceled
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Oscar Pistorius' agent has canceled all future track races so the double-amputee Olympian can focus on the murder charge against him, underscoring the possibility the disabled sports icon might never again run competitively on his famous carbon fiber blades.
Pistorius is defending himself against allegations he murdered his model girlfriend by shooting her several times in his upscale house on Valentine's Day morning.
Reeva Steenkamp died from gunshot wounds suffered inside Pistorius' home in the predawn hours of Thursday. Pistorius was arrested and charged with her murder the same day. His family denies he murdered her.
"I have decided that following these tragic events that we have no option but to cancel all future races that Oscar Pistorius had been contracted to compete in," agent Peet van Zyl said in a written statement late Sunday night.
A few hours earlier, Van Zyl had visited his athlete at a police station in the South African capital, Pretoria, where he is being held in custody in a red-bricked, one-story building with green metal fencing.
Zero tolerance or zero sense? Kids' suspensions over imaginary weapons renew debate
Waiting in line for the bus, a Pennsylvania kindergartener tells her pals she's going to shoot them with a Hello Kitty toy that makes soap bubbles. In Maryland, two 6-year-old boys pretend their fingers are guns during a playground game of cops and robbers. In Massachusetts, a 5-year-old boy attending an after-school program makes a gun out of Legos and points it at other students while "simulating the sound of gunfire," as one school official put it.
Kids with active imaginations? Or potential threats to school safety?
Some school officials are taking the latter view, suspending or threatening to suspend small children over behavior their parents consider perfectly normal and age-appropriate — even now, with schools in a state of heightened sensitivity following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December.
The extent to which the Newtown, Conn., shooting might influence educators' disciplinary decisions is unclear. But parents contend administrators are projecting adult fears onto children who know little about the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators, and who certainly pose no threat to anyone.
"It's horrible what they're doing to these kids," said Kelly Guarna, whose 5-year-old daughter, Madison, was suspended by Mount Carmel Area School District in eastern Pennsylvania last month for making a "terroristic threat" with the bubble gun. "They're treating them as mini-adults, making them grow up too fast, and robbing them of their imaginations."
Outrage over Indonesian divorce text to teen bride sparks small steps for women's rights
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A judge being interviewed for a Supreme Court job jokes that women might enjoy rape. A local official takes a 17-year-old second wife, then quickly divorces her by text message.
Both cases reflect attitudes toward women's rights and safety that have persisted for years in this Southeast Asian archipelago nation of 240 million people. The difference now: Both officials are at risk of losing their jobs.
Women in this social-media-obsessed country have been rallying, online and on the streets, against sexist comments and attacks on women. The response is seen as a small step for women's rights in Indonesia, where the government is secular and most people practice a moderate form of Islam.
"We are living in a different era now," said Husein Muhammad of the National Commission on Violence Against Women. "... Now we have supporting laws and social media to bring severe consequences and social sanctions."
Still, rights groups say the country remains far behind on many issues involving gender equality and violence. Rape cases often are not properly investigated, and victims are sometimes blamed.
Column: When we lose perspective, and the small stuff seems to overshadow the big stuff
WASHINGTON (AP) — Persistently high unemployment. A sluggish economy. Debt. Deficit. Obesity. Fundamental disputes over guns, immigration and the climate. A to-do list that would exhaust even the most vigorous multitasker. A meteor in Russia, even.
Yet what created one of the buzziest brouhahas in America last week? Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's inopportune sip of water on live TV.
Enormous challenges pack the nation's plate, but this country just can't seem to get enough of the small stuff.
It sometimes feels as if the collective obsession with the trivial is drowning out significant moments and overshadowing important debate. What does it say about America when the silly and the serious are considered with equal intensity? How can we keep some perspective? And what are the dangers if we don't?
It happens everywhere. But in the realm of politics alone, there is plenty of blame to go around for the focus on the frivolous. And there are deeply conflicted feelings among those responsible.
Study suggests parents can improve kids' behavior by switching to less violent TV shows
SEATTLE (AP) — Teaching parents to switch channels from violent shows to educational TV can improve preschoolers' behavior, even without getting them to watch less, a study found.
The results were modest and faded over time, but may hold promise for finding ways to help young children avoid aggressive, violent behavior, the study authors and other doctors said.
"It's not just about turning off the television. It's about changing the channel. What children watch is as important as how much they watch," said lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician and researcher at Seattle Children's Research Institute.
The research was to be published online Monday by the journal Pediatrics.
The study involved 565 Seattle parents, who periodically filled out TV-watching diaries and questionnaires measuring their child's behavior.
Oscar movies are hits, too, for a change; spur popular debate, box office sales
NEW YORK (AP) — How accurate is "Zero Dark Thirty"? Is "Lincoln" an epic of historical recreation or a high school history lesson? What did you think of "Django Unchained"? Can we get Anne Hathaway something to eat, already?
As a crop, this year's nine best picture nominees has been one of the most talk-provoking, op-Ed-generating bunches in recent Oscar history. From "Argo" to "Life of Pi," they've largely been popular at the box office, too.
This year, the question "Have you seen ...?" has been a frequent one, and often the reply has been positive. The movies have been debated, criticized, mulled over and tweeted. Above all, they've been relevant.
That hasn't always been the case, particularly in years where most best-picture candidates — and this is no slight to their worthiness — have struggled to surpass $100 million at the domestic box office. Last year, of the nine nominees, only "The Help" managed to pass that threshold. This year, five have ("Argo," ''Les Miserables," ''Lincoln," ''Django" and "Life of Pi") and two more are very close ("Zero Dark Thirty" and "Silver Linings Playbook").
Many of this year's nominees have done particularly well overseas. Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" has proved an international juggernaut, approaching $600 million worldwide.
Danica Patrick makes Sprint Cup history, wins pole for NASCAR's season-opening Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Danica Patrick is at her best in the spotlight.
Good thing, too, because she's going to be there all week.
Patrick won the Daytona 500 pole Sunday, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR's premier circuit. It's by far the biggest achievement of her stock-car career. She's braced for the attention that will follow.
"I think when pressure's on and when the spotlight's on, I feel like it ultimately ends up becoming some of my better moments and my better races and better results," Patrick said. "I just understand that if you put the hard work in before you go out there that you can have a little peace and a little peace of mind knowing that you've done everything you can and just let it happen."
Patrick, who taped interviews Sunday with CNN, ESPN and Good Morning America, was the first woman to lead laps in the Indianapolis 500. She finished third in 2009, the highest finish in that illustrious race for a woman. And she became the only woman to win an IndyCar race when she did it in Japan in 2008.