Chavez's illness deepens crisis
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan lawmakers will meet today in a session that could shed light on what steps may be taken if President Hugo Chavez is too sick to be sworn in for a new term next week.
Legislators will choose a president, two vice presidents and other leaders of the National Assembly, which is controlled by a pro-Chavez majority. Whoever is elected National Assembly president could end up being the interim president of Venezuela if Mr. Chavez is unable to be inaugurated on Thursday as scheduled.
Fighting rages in Syria
BEIRUT -- Fighting raged around the suburbs of the Syrian capital on Friday, as rebels sought to gain control of a ring of farming, residential and industrial communities that are a lifeline for the government of President Bashar Assad.
In neighboring Turkey, the first of 400 U.S. troops arrived to operate Patriot missile batteries intended to keep the violence from spilling over into the territory of the NATO country.
Netanyahu harshly criticized
JERUSALEM -- In a harsh interview published Friday, less than three weeks before Israel's national elections, a former head of the internal security service accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of placing his "personal, opportunistic and current interests" over those of the state when making crucial policy decisions regarding the Iranian nuclear program, the Palestinian conflict and other matters.
Yuval Diskin, who resigned 18 months ago as head of the security service, known as the Shin Bet, said other prime ministers he had worked closely with -- both conservative and liberal -- "came from this place in which the interests of the state stand above all else," in contrast to Mr. Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak.
Uranium rebound seen
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Uranium is poised to rebound from a second annual decline as Japan considers restarting its atomic plants almost two years after the Fukushima disaster and China pushes ahead with the world's biggest nuclear building program.
A revival in demand from Japan is raising the prospect that supplies of the radioactive metal will shrink at the same time as China continues with a project to increase its nuclear power capacity at least fivefold by 2020.
That's a boost for uranium producers such as Perth, Australia-based Paladin Energy. It's also a blow for liquefied natural gas exporters including Qatar and Australia, which have helped plug Japan's power shortage since the earthquake that led to the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in March 2011.
Atom smasher to close
GENEVA -- The world's largest and most powerful atom smasher goes into a 2-year hibernation in March, as engineers carry out a revamp to help it reach maximum energy levels that could lead to more stunning discoveries following the detection of the so-called "God particle."
With the reopening of its $10 billion proton collider in early 2015, the stage will be set for observing more rare phenomena -- and unlocking more mysteries, said James Gillies, chief spokesman for the European particle physics laboratory known as CERN.
Illegal ivory seized
HONG KONG -- Customs officials in Hong Kong announced Friday their third large seizure of smuggled ivory in less than three months, saying they had intercepted 779 elephant tusks weighing 2,900 pounds in a container originating from Kenya.