WASHINGTON — The common ground between the U.S. and Russia — and Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin — has been shrinking steadily in spite of the much-touted “reset” of relations between the old Cold War foes. And it just got even smaller. The latest blow to improving relations came Wednesday when Obama, annoyed with Putin’s decision to grant temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, canceled a face-to-face summit with the Russian leader. While U.S. and Russian foreign and defense ministers will sit down in Washington later this week, Obama won’t be going to Moscow next month. By Matthew Lee and Deb Riechmann.
FORT HOOD SHOOTING
FORT HOOD, Texas — A U.S. military judge could decide Thursday whether the soldier accused in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood is trying to guarantee himself a death sentence. Defense attorneys ordered to help Maj. Nidal Hasan as he represents himself during his murder trial said they believe he is trying to convince jurors to convict him. After only one day of testimony, the lawyers said, they couldn’t watch him fulfill a death wish. By Nomaan Merchant and Paul J. Weber.
TORONTO — The mother of two small boys strangled by a 100-pound (45-kilogram) python in their sleep earlier this week in Canada had posted photos on Facebook last year of the boys playing in and cleaning her neighbor’s snake enclosure. Mandy Trecartin’s Facebook page has hundreds of photos of her sons, including a few showing Noah Barthe, 4, and Connor Barthe, 6, happily scrubbing the glass enclosure, which she identified as an anaconda habitat. It was not clear whether the enclosure is the one that held the python. By Rob Gillies.
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan authorities ordered the arrest of a close aide to opposition leader Henrique Capriles and military agents searched the man’s apartment, the opposition says, calling it proof of a new wave of political repression. By Fabiola Sanchez. AP Photos.
FORT MEADE, Maryland — Prosecutors are asking an expert on militant Islam to help them show that Army Pfc. Bradley Manning damaged U.S. interests by disclosing classified information through WikiLeaks. Navy Cmdr. Youssef Aboul-Enein is set to testify Thursday at Manning’s sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. By David Dishneau.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Firefighters hunt through the ruins of a 10-story apartment building destroyed by a gas explosion, but no more victims have been found from a blast that killed at least 11 people, injured more than 60 injured and left 11 unaccounted for. By Michael Warren. AP Photos.
SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s latest census should be scrapped and repeated in 2015, because there was a substantial undercount of the population, an independent commission of experts says. By Eva Vergara.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Pope Francis is asking fellow Argentines to reach out to the poorest, not only through charity but by showing them compassion and affection. By Debora Rey. AP Photos.
MIAMI — Guards serve the first in a series of special meals to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to mark the end of the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, which this year brought a lull in a long-running hunger strike. By Ben Fox. AP Photo.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea will make a three-day visit to Panama next week to investigate an undeclared arms shipment from Cuba discovered in a North Korean-flagged ship detained in the Panama Canal, the sanctions committee says. By Edith M. Lederer.
HENRIETTA LACKS’ CELLS
NEW YORK — Some 60 years ago, an American doctor removed cancer cells from a poor black patient named Henrietta Lacks without her knowledge or consent. Those cells eventually helped lead to a multitude of medical treatments and laid the groundwork for the multibillion-dollar biotech industry. The Baltimore woman’s saga was made famous by the 2010 best-seller “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” By Malcolm Ritter.
WASHINGTON — Same-sex spouses of U.S. military members could get health care, housing and other benefits by the end of August under a proposal being considered by the Pentagon. But earlier plans to provide benefits to gay partners who are not married may be reversed. A draft Defense Department memo obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press says the department instead may provide up to 10 days of leave to military personnel in same-sex relationships so they can travel to states where they can marry legally. By Lolita C. Baldor.