National briefs: Kerry approved to head State

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WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Sen. John Kerry as secretary of state, filling a key job in President Barack Obama's second-term national security team.

The nomination was approved by a vote of 94-3. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Republicans of Texas, and Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., opposed the nomination.

Mr. Kerry, D-Mass., who has served in the Senate since 1985, had strong support on both sides of the aisle.

Mr. Kerry, 69, will succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose last day at the State Department is Friday.

LaHood departing Cabinet

WASHINGTON -- Ray LaHood, the former Republican congressman from Illinois who has run the nation's Transportation Department under President Barack Obama, will not serve a second term, he told department employees in a letter Tuesday.

He cited the department's efforts to curb distracted driving and to increase the efficiency of automobiles by raising emissions standards.

Among those mentioned as a possible replacement for Mr. LaHood is former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

Snafu at 9/11 tribunal

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- The judge presiding at the Sept. 11, 2001, death penalty tribunal declined Tuesday to say who cut the audio and then video to his court for three minutes in an episode that has drawn protest.

The attorney for accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-defendants had just spoken the word "secret" on Monday when, as Judge James Pohl put it, "some external body" cut the outside world off from hearing the proceedings.

Spectators in the war court gallery watch from behind soundproofed glass and hear the court on a 40-second delay. A red emergency light spins in court when a censor at the judge's elbow hits the mute button to prevent someone from spilling national security secrets.

Low adult vaccination rates

WASHINGTON -- Vaccination rates for diseases including pneumonia, shingles and human papillomavirus are "unacceptably low" among adults, U.S. health authorities said.

About 20 percent of U.S. adults younger than age 65 are vaccinated against pneumococcal diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday in a report. The illnesses killed about 50,000 people in 2010. About 16 percent of adults 60 and older are vaccinated against shingles.

Poultry tops in food deaths

ATLANTA -- Chicken, turkey and other poultry meat are responsible for more food-related deaths than any other items, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Poultry caused about 19 percent of foodborne fatalities in the 10-year period through 2008, the CDC said in a study that marks the first time the Atlanta-based agency has estimated how many illnesses may be attributed to specific foods. Dairy accounted for 10 percent of deaths and vine-stalk vegetables such as peppers were responsible for 7 percent.

Walk on the wild side

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Despite gusts of wind, aerialist Nik Wallenda had no trouble Tuesday with his 600-foot stroll along a wire 200 feet above U.S. 41 in downtown Sarasota.

Mr. Wallenda, 34, completed his stunt without a net or safety tether in about seven minutes.

nation


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