TRIPOLI, Libya

Government proposes talks but says Gadhafi must stay

Libya’s government pushed a cease-fire proposal Thursday and said for the first time it was prepared to speak with its rebel adversaries, signaling that months of fighting and NATO bombardment may be closer to forcing some concessions.

Even so, the government insisted Moammar Gadhafi would not relinquish power, which he has held for more than 40 years. His departure is a key demand of the United States, European leaders and the rebels, who say they will not consider halting more than three months of fighting until Gadhafi goes.

“The leader, Moammar Gadhafi, is in the heart of every Libyan. If he leaves, the entire Libyan people leave,” said Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

He told reporters Thursday that he was willing to hold talks with “all Libyans,” including members of the rebel administration.

KABUL, Afghanistan

Seven U.S. soldiers among victims of Taliban field blast

Nine NATO service members were killed Thursday in Afghanistan, including seven U.S. troops among eight who died when a powerful bomb exploded in a field where they were patrolling on foot, officials said.

Two Afghan policemen also died and two others were wounded in the explosion in the mountainous Shorabak district of Kandahar province, 12 miles from the Pakistan border, said Gen. Abdul Raziq, chief of the Afghan border police in the province.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast.

WASHINGTON

Census shows men closing population gap with women

Women still outlive men, but the gender gap among U.S. seniors is narrowing.

New 2010 census figures, released Thursday, show men are reducing women’s population advantage, primarily in the 65-plus age group. It’s a change in the social dynamics of a country in which longevity and health care for seniors often have been seen as issues more important to women.

In all, the numbers highlight a nation that is rapidly aging even as Congress debates cuts in Medicare, an issue with ramifications for the growing ranks of older men as well as women.

During the past decade, the number of men in the United States increased by 9.9 percent, faster than the 9.5 percent growth rate for women. As a result, women outnumbered men by just 5.18 million, compared with 2000, when there were 5.3 million more women than men. 

CHICAGO

Diocese ending adoptions, foster care over rights law

An Illinois diocese is ending adoptions and foster care services over objections to a new state law that would require it to allow gay or unmarried couples to adopt or foster children.

Rockford Diocese officials say doing so would violate teachings of the Catholic faith.

They say they’re being forced to terminate state contracts for adoption and foster services after lawmakers failed to pass an amendment exempting religious groups from provisions of the state’s new civil unions law. The law takes effect June 1.

The Civil Rights Agenda calls the diocese’s action “a sad display of bigotry.”

The Rockford Diocese says it handles about 350 foster family and adoption cases in 11 northern Illinois counties.