Venezuelan V.P. says Chavez up and about, giving orders


Two weeks after undergoing his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is walking, exercising and dealing with official matters, his vice president said.

Nicolas Maduro told state television that Chavez telephoned him from the Havana hospital where he is recuperating to issue a "set of work orders."

It was the vice president's first direct conversation with Chavez since the 58-year-old head of state's Dec. 11 operation in the Cuban capital.

Most of their 20-minute phone call was devoted to government business, Maduro said, adding that Chavez has a "very clear agenda" for his next term, which starts in January.




27 Die in plane crash in Kazakhstan


The acting head of Kazakhstan's border guard and 26 other people died when a military transport plane crashed, the Kazakh National Security Committee said.

The An-72 aircraft carried a crew of seven and 20 military personnel, including Col. Turganbek Stambekov, the committee said in a statement cited by Russian news agencies.

The Russian-made plane took off from the Kazakh capital, Astana, bound for Shymkent, an industrial hub near Kazakhstan's 2,200-kilometer (1,350-mile)-long border with Uzbekistan.




Driver runs down 23 students in China


Twenty-three students were injured when a driver deliberately drove his vehicle onto the playground at a high school in China's Hebei province, the official Xinhua news agency said Tuesday.

The driver involved in Monday's incident, which took place during the students' lunch break, was apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The outcome could have been worse, the news agency said, noting that police found a can of gasoline and fireworks inside the vehicle. Authorities speculated the driver's idea was that the vehicle would explode and destroy the school.

It was China's second attack on a school in less than two weeks, following a Dec. 14 episode in which a man stabbed 22 children and an adult at a primary school in Henan province.




"Odd Couple" star Jack Klugman dies


U.S. actor Jack Klugman, best known for his role in the television series "The Odd Couple," died at his home in Northridge, California, his lawyer said. He was 90.

Klugman won two Emmys for his performance in the 1970-1975 comedy about two recently divorced men sharing an apartment, adding to the one he picked up a decade earlier for his guest-starring role in an episode of "The Defenders."

Born April, 22, 1922, in Philadelphia to Russian immigrants, Jacob Joachim Klugman studied acting at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie- Mellon University, before serving with the U.S. Army in World War II.




Nadal's return to court on hold due to stomach ailment


Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since last summer, said he was pulling out of this week's exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi due to a stomach infection.

Nadal, who planned to return to action on Friday, revealed his latest setback in a Twitter posting.

"I am really sorry to not be able to compete in Abu Dhabi this year. Everything was ready and I really want to return to competition, but the doctors have prohibited me from playing in Abu Dhabi because of a stomach infection that has given me a fever," Nadal said.

The 11-time Grand Slam champion began the summer on a high note by capturing a record 7th French Open title with a victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final, but he has not played since a shocking second-round loss at Wimbledon.




6 Die in wave of violence in western Mexico


At least six people, including five police officers, were killed in different cities on the border between the western Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacan, officials said.

The burned bodies of five people, including four police officers kidnapped over the weekend, were found on Monday morning in the city of Pihuamo, municipal and state security officials told Efe.

The four officers were kidnapped by gunmen wearing military-style uniforms when they responded to a call for assistance on Sunday in the Las Naranjas district.

A shootout between police and gunmen, meanwhile, left an officer dead and two others wounded in Ayotlan, another city in Jalisco.