Bishops defend role in bill debate

BALTIMORE - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops defended its involvement in the debate over a health-care overhaul, saying yesterday that church leaders had a duty to the nation and God to raise moral concerns on any issue, including on abortion rights and coverage for the poor.

Chicago Cardinal Francis George, the conference president, said Roman Catholic prelates believed that "everyone should be cared for and that no one should be deliberately killed."

George spoke at the start of the conference's fall meeting in a speech that reasserted the bishops' role not only as guardians of the faith, but also as moral guides outside the church. The meeting's agenda deals largely with family issues and the final segments of an English-language translation of a new Roman Missal. - AP

Guilty plea today in teen's abduction

SALT LAKE CITY - The saga of teenager Elizabeth Smart's 2002 knifepoint abduction from her bedroom and improbable recovery nine months later is showing the first signs of resolution.

Wanda Eileen Barzee, 63, one of two people charged, will plead guilty in federal court today to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor, attorney Scott Williams said.

Barzee's alleged role has garnered less attention than that of her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, 55, but her expected plea marks a major step forward in the separate cases that stalled when both defendants were ruled incompetent for trial.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball denied a defense motion to keep religious experts and a psychiatrist from testifying at a Nov. 30 competency hearing for Mitchell. - AP

FDR papers near public availability

WASHINGTON - The last great archives of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency may soon be available to researchers and the public - 14 boxes of handwritten notes, gifts, and correspondence.

The House yesterday approved a bill to clear the way for the memorabilia to be donated to Roosevelt's library and museum in Hyde Park, N.Y. While the bill is identical to one the Senate passed in October, it still has to return to the Senate for one more vote before it goes to President Obama.

The boxes have been sealed at Roosevelt's library since 2005, tied up in an ownership dispute between the government and a private collector. Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (both D., N.Y.) promoted bills that would make clear the government has no claim to the papers. - AP

Elsewhere:

A missing 5-year-old girl whose mother is charged with offering her for sex was found dead yesterday off a heavily wooded road in a rural area southeast of Sanford, N.C., ending a weeklong search, police said. A police spokeswoman declined to comment on a cause of death for Shaniya Davis.

The Postal Service reported a net loss of $3.8 billion for fiscal 2009, $1 billion more than the previous year. The loss comes despite a cut of 40,000 in career employees and billions in cost-cutting measures.

Female immigrants ages 11 to 26 will no longer have to be vaccinated against HPV, the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, to get their green cards. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the change Friday, and it takes effect Dec. 14.