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New pope opens Holy Week at Vatican on Palm Sunday
Pope Francis reaches for a child after celebrating his first Palm Sunday Mass, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis celebrated his first Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, encouraging people to be humble and young at heart and promising to go to a youth jamboree in Brazil in July, while the faithful enthusiastically waved olive branches and braided palm fronds.
 
The square overflowed with a crowd estimated by the Vatican at 250,000 people. Pilgrims, tourists and Romans jostled each other in an eager effort glimpse Francis as they joined the new pope at the start of solemn Holy Week ceremonies, which lead up to Easter, Christianity's most important day.
 
Keeping with his spontaneous style, the first pope from Latin America broke away several times from the text of his prepared homily to encourage the faithful to lead simple lives and resist the temptation to be sad when life's obstacles inevitably come their way.
 
Watch video below.
 
KERRY WARNS IRAQ ON IRAN FLIGHTS TO SYRIA
 
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Just days after the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confronted Baghdad for continuing to grant Iran access to its airspace and said Iraq's behavior was raising questions about its reliability as a partner.
 
Speaking to reporters during a previously unannounced trip to Baghdad, Kerry said that he and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had engaged in "a very spirited discussion" on the Iranian flights, which U.S. officials believe are ferrying weapons and fighters intended for the embattled Syrian government.
 
Kerry said the plane shipments - along with material being trucked across Iraqi territory from Iran to Syria - were helping President Bashar Assad's regime cling to power by increasing their ability to strike at Syrian rebels and opposition figures demanding Assad's ouster.
 
BOTH SIDES OF GUN DEBATE MAKE PUBLIC APPEALS
 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two of the loudest voices in the gun debate say it's up to voters now to make their position known to Congress.
 
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and National Rifle Associate Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre claim their opposing views on guns have the support of the overwhelming number of Americans. They are looking at the next two weeks as critical to the debate, when lawmakers head home to hear from constituents ahead of next month's anticipated Senate vote on gun control.
 
Bloomberg, a former Republican-turned-independent, has just sunk $12 million for Mayors Against Illegal Guns to run television ads and phone banks in 13 states urging voters to tell their senators to pass legislation requiring universal background checks for gun buyers.
 
"We demanded a plan and then we demanded a vote. We've got the plan, we're going to get the vote. And now it's incumbent on us to make our voices heard," said Bloomberg.
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that legislation would likely be debated in his chamber next month that will include expanded federal background checks, tougher laws and stiffer sentences for gun trafficking and increased school safety grants. A ban on assault-style weapons was dropped from the bill, fearing it would sink the broader bill. But Reid has said that he would allow the ban to be voted on separately as an amendment. President Barack Obama called for a vote on the assault weapons ban in his radio and Internet address Saturday.
 
HEART REPAIR BREAKTHROUGHS REPLACE SURGEON'S KNIFE
 
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Have a heart problem? If it's fixable, there's a good chance it can be done without surgery, using tiny tools and devices that are pushed through tubes into blood vessels.
 
Heart care is in the midst of a transformation. Many problems that once required sawing through the breastbone and opening up the chest for open heart surgery now can be treated with a nip, twist or patch through a tube.
 
These minimal procedures used to be done just to unclog arteries and correct less common heart rhythm problems. Now some patients are getting such repairs for valves, irregular heartbeats, holes in the heart and other defects - without major surgery. Doctors even are testing ways to treat high blood pressure with some of these new approaches.
 
All rely on catheters - hollow tubes that let doctors burn away and reshape heart tissue or correct defects through small holes into blood vessels.
 
 

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