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S. Africa, Australia to co-host telescope

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- South Africa and Australia will share hosting of a giant radio telescope made up of thousands of separate dishes and intended to help scientists figure out the make-up of the universe, the international consortium overseeing the project announced Friday.

South Africa led an African consortium that included Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia.

South Africa and Australia, which partnered with New Zealand in bidding for the project, had competed fiercely for it.

The Square Kilometer Array telescope will be 50 times more sensitive and scan the sky 10,000 times faster than any existing telescope. It needs huge open spaces with few humans.

John Womersley, chairman of the consortium's board, said the telescope will help scientists answer key questions: "Where do we come from? Where are we going? What is this universe we live in?"

"We don't understand what 96 percent of our universe is made of," he said.

Womersley said splitting construction between the two nations will likely add around 10 percent to the $439 million cost of the first phase of building the giant telescope.



Visa commotion angers Beijing

BEIJING (AP) -- A U.S. clampdown on visas for instructors at China's flagship cultural program overseas has incensed Beijing. State media called it an attempt by Washington to frustrate Chinese global ambitions.

A U.S. directive last week said many Chinese instructors had the wrong kind of visa, though it appeared largely resolved by Thursday. The U.S. State Department expressed regret over how the matter was handled and was working on a way for teachers to update their status without returning home.

But the commotion it set off has underlined China's sensitivity about the more than 300 Confucius Institutes it has opened globally in less than a decade as a way of spreading its influence abroad. One opened at the University at Buffalo in 2010.

They primarily give language instruction but also engage in cultural exchanges and are set up at universities overseas, where they have drawn concerns that they are propaganda machines aimed at stifling academic criticism of China's Communist Party.



Bud nears resorts, slows to tropical storm

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) -- Bud weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm Friday as heavy rain began to pelt a string of beach resorts and small mountain villages on Mexico's Pacific coast south of Puerto Vallarta.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., said maximum sustained winds that were once blowing at 115 mph had slowed to 60 mph Friday night.

Forecasters said the storm would continue to weaken and the center would move over land early today.

Heavy rain started Friday night in Puerto Vallarta and was expected to accumulate from 6 to 10 inches.

Authorities canceled school in 11 communities expected to be hit by heavy rains in Jalisco state. Emergency workers prepared emergency shelters, many of them in empty school classrooms.

Emergency officials in Puerto Vallarta said they were closely monitoring villages that had been hit by flooding and mudslides in previous hurricanes and tropical storms.



Former premier eyeing role of president

ROME (AP) -- Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appears to be angling for the role of Italian president -- with enhanced powers.

Berlusconi, who has been Italy's prime minister three times, said Friday his party will propose a constitutional amendment to allow Italians to directly elect presidents, as France does. Currently, the Italian presidency is mostly a ceremonial post, with the president elected to a seven-year term by both houses of Parliament.

Berlusconi said he would like to see the Italian presidency modeled on France's, where the president holds more powers than the prime minister and can hold two terms.

Berlusconi said the role of president is not his ambition, "but there are responsibilities that one cannot avoid."

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's term ends next year.