H.W. Bush in ICU — Former President George H.W. Bush has been admitted to the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital “following a series of setbacks, including a persistent fever," but he is alert and talking to medical staff, his spokesman said Wednesday. Jim McGrath, Bush’s spokesman in Houston, said in a brief email that Bush, 88, was admitted to the ICU at Methodist Hospital on Sunday. He said doctors are cautiously optimistic about his treatment and that the former president “remains in guarded condition." No other details were released about his medical condition, but McGrath said Bush is surrounded by family. Bush has been hospitalized since Nov. 23.
Mandela out of hospital — Former South African President Nelson Mandela was released Wednesday from a hospital in Johannesburg after being treated for a lung infection and having gallstones removed, a government spokesman said. The 94-year-old anti- apartheid icon will continue to receive medical care at home. Mandela had been in the hospital since Dec. 8. In recent days, officials have said he was improving and in good spirits, but doctors have taken extraordinary care with his health because of his age.
Firefighters recovering — Two firefighters wounded by a gunman who set his upstate New York house ablaze and killed two of their colleagues in an ambush with weapons he wasn’t allowed to own were on the mend Wednesday and said they were thankful for the support they’ve received. Investigators, meanwhile, traced the gunman’s weapons and tried to confirm a body found in his destroyed house in Webster, N.Y., near Rochester, was his sister’s.
Syria setbacks — Syria’s wounded interior minister cut short his treatment at a Beirut hospital Wednesday and returned home for fear of being arrested by Lebanese authorities, while Syria’s chief of military police defected to the opposition, becoming one of the highest-ranking officers to switch sides. The twin developments reflected the deepening isolation of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, which has suffered a number of setbacks on the battlefield as well.
Outcry over gun map — Following the Connecticut school killings, a newspaper in nearby Westchester County, N.Y., published the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in its readership area. The newspaper, The Journal News, said that informing people about legal weapons in their neighborhoods was a public service. Not everyone agreed. The posting of the information online over the weekend has touched off an outcry that has underscored the raw emotions surrounding the issue of guns.
Afghan bombing — A suicide bomber killed three Afghans on Wednesday in an unsuccessful attempt to enter an American military base in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan officials said. The attack was on Forward Operating Base Chapman. Gen. Abdul Qayum Baqizoi, the police chief in Khost province, said the attacker drove toward the front gate but was stopped by an Afghan guard. The attacker detonated his explosives and killed the guard, as well as two civilians, Baqizoi said.
Morsi acknowledges mistakes — President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt took responsibility Wednesday for “mistakes" during the run-up to ratification of the new constitution and urged Egyptians to appreciate the fierce disagreements about it as a “healthy phenomenon" of their new democracy. Appealing for unity after the bitter debate over the charter, which was finalized over the objections of opposition parties, Morsi pledged in a televised address to respect the one-third of voters who cast ballots against it. But Morsi offered no concessions, and he did not acknowledge any specific errors, saying only, “There have been mistakes here and there, and I bear responsibility."
Gang-rape victim moved — A young woman who was gang-raped and assaulted on a moving bus in the Indian capital of New Delhi was flown Thursday to a Singapore hospital for treatment of severe internal injuries that could last several weeks, officials said. The 23-year-old student, who is in critical condition, arrived in Singapore on an air ambulance and was admitted to the Mount Elizabeth hospital, renowned for multi-organ transplant facilities.
Longest high-speed rail — China has opened the world’s longest high-speed rail line, which more than halves the time required to travel from the country’s capital in the north to Guangzhou, an economic hub in southern China. Wednesday’s opening of the 1,428-mile line was commemorated by the 9 a.m. departure of a train from Beijing for Guangzhou. Another train left Guangzhou for Beijing an hour later. Trains on the latest high-speed line will initially run at 186 mph, with a total travel time of about eight hours. Before, the fastest time between the two cities by train was more than 20 hours.
Japan’s new leader — Parliament formally elected Shinzo Abe as prime minister on Wednesday, ending a three-year break from decades of near-constant rule by his conservative Liberal Democratic Party. The victory puts Abe, 58, a former prime minister and an outspoken nationalist, at Japan’s helm as it faces the growing burden of its aging population, years of industrial decline and the challenge of an increasingly assertive China. The change in prime ministers is the seventh in six years, a high turnover that is itself a sign of the nation’s inability to escape its long economic funk.
France protested in Africa — Angry protesters carrying clubs threw rocks at the French Embassy in Central African Republic on Wednesday, criticizing the former colonial power for failing to do more to stem a rapid rebel advance as fears grew that the insurgents aim to seize the capital. The demonstrations began earlier in the day outside the U.S. Embassy before about 100 protesters then took to the French Embassy, carrying pieces of cardboard with messages that read: “No to war! No to France!"
Oklahoma house fire kills 5 — A fire that ripped through a home in Oklahoma City before dawn Wednesday killed a woman and her four children and left one man in critical condition with serious burns, authorities said. Firefighters who arrived about 6:30 a.m. found the bodies of Jeanine Bonnet, 28, and her children inside the two-story, wood-frame home, Fire Department Maj. Tammy McKinney said. They found Brian Poletto, 39, outside the burning house while a man who rented a room at the home, David Ruppert, managed to escape the flames.
Candy-cigarette carrier warned — Owners of an old-school soda shop in St. Paul, Minn., are being warned to kick the habit and stop stocking novelty candy cigarettes. City inspectors threatened a misdemeanor citation and $500 fine if Lynden’s soda fountain is caught selling the fake smokes again. The Star Tribune reported Wednesday that the offering violated an ordinance barring the sale of candy smokes and cartoon character lighters.
— From wire reports