WASHINGTON

Republicans vow to block plan to cut nuclear weapons

Congressional Republicans on Wednesday vowed to block the Obama administration from sharply cutting the U.S. nuclear force, calling potential reductions of as much as 80 percent in the number of deployed weapons “reckless lunacy.”

Pointing to the growing number of trouble spots, from Iran to Syria to Egypt, members of the House Armed Services Committee said any significant cuts would undermine the U.S. ability to deter aggression. The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the administration is weighing several options for new reductions from the current treaty limit of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee that no decision has been made and maintaining the current level is one of the options. But that did little to assuage GOP lawmakers.

“I just want to go on record as saying that there are many of us that are going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that this preposterous notion does not gain any real traction,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.

OKLAHOMA CITY

Senate passes bill declaring life begins at conception

The Oklahoma Senate has overwhelmingly approved an anti-abortion “personhood” bill that declares life begins at conception.

The vote Wednesday upset doctors who fear the proposed law will jeopardize reproductive medicine.

The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin typically won’t comment on pending legislation, but she has described herself as strongly “pro-life.”

The bill provides embryos and fetuses with “all the rights privileges, and immunities” of other citizens.

Republican Sen. Brian Crain says it’s modeled after a 1986 Missouri law that was later determined by the U.S. Supreme Court to be constitutional.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.

Romney strategy includes blasting auto industry bailout

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is wooing tea partyers in his home state of Michigan with a potentially risky strategy: blasting the auto industry bailout that many people credit with saving the state’s most vital industry.

The tactic seems designed to undermine Rick Santorum’s popularity with conservatives who dislike government intervention in business, even when the results appear defensible. It also reinforces Romney’s image as an experienced capitalist who understands the pain sometimes involved in making companies work.

Santorum’s fast rise in national polls has forced Romney to sharpen his criticisms of the former Pennsylvania senator. Santorum says his team will “plant our flag” in Michigan while also campaigning in other states.

LAS VEGAS

Medical situation at Heart Attack Grill confuses patrons

Laughing tourists were either cynical or confused about whether a man was really suffering a medical episode amid the “doctor,” “nurses” and health warnings at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, a restaurant owner said Wednesday.

“It was no joke,” said Jon Basso, who promotes himself as “Doctor Jon,” his scantily clad waitresses as nurses and customers as patients.

Basso said he could tell right away the man in his 40s eating a Triple Bypass burger was having trouble. Paramedics were called Saturday night, fire spokesman Tim Szymanski said, and the man was hospitalized. His name and information about his condition weren’t made public.

Giggles can be heard on the soundtrack of amateur video showing the man on a stretcher being wheeled out of the restaurant where patrons pass an antique ambulance at the door and a sign: “Caution! This establishment is bad for your health.”

BEIRUT

Syrian president announces referendum on constitution

With his nation plunging toward civil war, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced Wednesday that a nationwide referendum would be held this month on a new constitution that is the centerpiece of what he says is a plan to reform the country.

The opposition dismissed the referendum announcement as an effort to buy time, and it was not clear how the government could carry out a vote in a country riven by violence. Large areas of Syria are no longer even under government control.

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario

Wallenda plans tightrope walk across Niagara Falls

Daredevil Nik Wallenda is set to walk a 1,800 foot tightrope across Niagara Falls this summer, a feat the seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas said has been his childhood dream.

The Niagara Parks Commission, which months ago refused even to consider the idea, voted unanimously Wednesday to allow the walk between the United States and Canada.

Wallenda plans to run a 2-inch wire 60 to 70 feet above the 160-foot gorge, which will dip down in the middle, meaning he’ll walk downhill during the first half of the 30- to 40-minute walk and uphill until the end.

– From news service reports


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