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Diesel exhaust causes cancer, WHO declares

LONDON (AP) -- Diesel exhaust causes cancer, the World Health Organization's cancer agency declared Tuesday, a ruling it said could make exhaust as important a public health threat as secondhand smoke.

The risk of getting cancer from diesel fumes is small, but since so many people breathe in the fumes in some way, the science panel said raising the status of diesel exhaust to carcinogen from "probable carcinogen" was an important shift.

"It's on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking," said Kurt Straif, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which evaluates cancer risk. "This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines."

The new classification followed a weeklong discussion in Lyon, France, by an expert panel organized by the agency.

The U.S. government still classifies diesel exhaust as a likely carcinogen.


Many children fail to get enough food

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- Millions of North Korean children are not getting the food, medicine or health care they need to develop physically or mentally, leaving many stunted and malnourished, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Nearly a third of children under age 5 show signs of stunting, particularly in rural areas where food is scarce, the U.N. report said. It said chronic diarrhea due to a lack of clean water, sanitation and electricity has become the leading cause of death among children.

"I've seen babies who should have been sitting up who were not sitting up, and can hardly hold a baby bottle," Jerome Sauvage, the U.N.'s Pyongyang-based resident coordinator for North Korea, said.

The report bolsters critics who say the government should be spending on food security instead of building up its military, testing rockets and pursuing a nuclear program.

The United Nations called for $198 million in donations for 2012 -- mostly to help feed the hungry.


Bishops oppose move to OK gay marriages

LONDON (AP) -- The Church of England and Catholic bishops of England and Wales objected Tuesday to a government proposal to permit gay marriages.

Prime Minister David Cameron is backing a proposal to permit civil marriages for gay couples, despite the strong opposition of some lawmakers in his Conservative Party. Gay couples have been allowed to have civil partnerships since 2005.

"The uniqueness of the institution of marriage is based on the fact that the human person exists as both male and female and that their union for the purpose of procreation, mutual support and love has, over the centuries of human history, formed a stable unit which we call the family," the Catholic bishops said.

The Church of England contended that gay couples already have many of the legal benefits of marriage through civil partnerships and worried that churches could be required to perform same-sex marriages.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the government didn't want to impose anything on any religious organization.