Updated 

In brief | Nation & World | 2-27-14


US Joint Chiefs chairman Dempsey sees grim future for Afghanistan without US security pact

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Depicting a grim future for Afghanistan without U.S. help, the top U.S. military officer said Wednesday that Afghanistan’s refusal to sign a security agreement with the United States may make the fight more difficult this year, embolden the enemy and prompt some Afghan security forces to cooperate with the Taliban to “hedge their bets.”

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent the day with his commanders and troops in Afghanistan working to manage the after-effects of President Barack Obama’s order Tuesday to begin actively planning for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of the year. In back-to-back meetings, he urged them to focus on the considerable work they have to do and not worry about next year.

Syrian state media say army troops killed 175 rebels in one of deadliest attacks

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian army troops on Wednesday killed 175 rebels, many of them al-Qaida-linked fighters, in an ambush described as one of the deadliest attacks by government forces against fighters near Damascus, according to state media.

An opposition group said the dawn ambush — part of a government effort to secure the capital — was carried out by the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which has been instrumental in helping President Bashar Assad’s regime push back rebels entrenched in the suburbs of the capital city.

Obama asking Congress for $300B for road, railway work he says will help put Americans to work

ST. PAUL, Minn. — President Barack Obama said Wednesday he will ask Congress for $300 billion to update aging roads and railways, arguing that the taxpayer investment is a worthy one that will pay dividends by attracting businesses and helping put people to work.

Obama announced his plan at the Union Depot rail and bus station after touring a light rail maintenance facility. Funding for surface transportation programs expires later this year, and the White House says 700,000 jobs could be at risk unless Congress renews them.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned Wednesday of a “transportation cliff” coming in August or September when the Highway Trust Fund, which finances federal highway and transit projects, is forecast to go broke.

Older fathers linked with psychiatric troubles in kids in study; more proof needed

CHICAGO — Older fathers may face higher risks than previously thought for having children with psychiatric problems, including bipolar disorder, autism and attention deficits, according to the largest study to examine the potential links.

American and Swedish researchers examined data on more than 2.6 million Swedes born from 1973-2001. Men who fathered kids after age 24 faced increasing odds for having children with psychiatric problems or academic difficulties, with the greatest risks seen at age 45 and older.

The results add to evidence challenging the notion that men’s sperm are timeless, but this kind of research isn’t proof. And by no means are children of older dads certain to have problems. Absolute risks were small — less than 1 percent of kids of older dads had autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder or bipolar disorder; and less than 4 percent had schizophrenia or fell victim to substance abuse or attempted suicide.

Even so, the magnitude of increased risks was surprising, said lead author Brian D’Onofrio, an associate professor in the psychological and brain sciences department at Indiana University.

By wire sources