Nation/world news briefs

  • Updated: May 21, 2013 - 9:13 PM
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Afghans in Pakistan: An Afghan refugee girl walked back to her home in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad. Pakistan hosts more than 1.6 million registered Afghans, the largest and most protracted refugee population in the world, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Photo: Muhammed Muheisen • Associated Press,

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Washington, D.C.

Senate panel OKs immigration bill

On a solid bipartisan vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night approved a landmark immigration bill offering citizenship to millions. The 13-5 vote cleared the way for an epic showdown on the Senate floor on legislation that is one of President Obama’s top domestic priorities — yet also gives the Republican Party a chance to recast itself as more appealing to minorities. The action sparked rejoicing from immigration activists who crowded into a Senate committee room to witness the proceedings.

Obama’s approval ratings hold steady

Political coverage over the past week has focused on a series of stories that reflect negatively on the executive branch — but President Obama’s approval ratings have held steady. As of Monday, Obama’s Gallup approval rating was 49 percent — the same as it was, on average, in April. Obama’s approval rating in a CNN poll published Sunday was 53 percent, little different from the 51 percent in April.

Arizona

Arias pleads with jury to reject death penalty

Jodi Arias begged jurors to give her life in prison, saying she “lacked perspective” when she told a local reporter that she preferred execution to spending the rest of her days in jail. Arias told the same eight men and four women who found her guilty of murdering her one-time boyfriend that she planned to use her time in prison to bring about positive changes, including donating her hair to be made into wigs for cancer victims.

Cuba

Scant improvement in religious freedom

Cuba’s communist government eased controls on religious activities in the past year but overall maintained “significant restrictions” on freedom of religion on the island, according to a U.S. State Department report. Most religious leaders in Cuba acknowledged that they exercise self-censorship in their sermons.

Syria

Hezbollah, Assad forces press assault

In another day of fierce fighting in the strategic Syrian city of Qusair, government forces backed by fighters from the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah continued their offensive against rebels who have long held the town. There were conflicting reports about the progress of the fighting. Warplanes mounted airstrikes on the town in the morning, and government forces fired mortar shells as clashes intensified on the outskirts of the city, opposition activists said.

Mexico

Military tries to restore order in west

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