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Published:Sunday | July 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Russia, US butt heads at last-ditch Syria talks

GENEVA (AP):Russia's determination to preserve its last remaining ally in the Middle East collided head-on with United States (US) and other Western powers' desire to replace Syrian President Bashar Assad with a democracy at a pivotal United Nations-brokered conference yesterday.

Without agreement among the major powers on how to form a transitional government for the country, Assad's regime - Iran's closest ally - would be emboldened to try to remain in power indefinitely, and that would also complicate the US's aim of halting Iran's nuclear goals.

Democrats split on pitching health care

WASHINGTON (AP):The constitutional win for President Barack Obama and Democrats on health-care overhaul is reopening political cuts within the party over the unpopular law.

Four months to an election with control of Congress in the balance, the Supreme Court's affirmation of the law left several Democrats insisting that the issue was settled and it's time to focus on jump-starting a sluggish economy.

Other Democrats saw the new-found attention as a chance to reset the debate and make a fresh case for the law's more popular elements, especially as 12.8 million Americans start getting health insurance rebate checks in the coming months.

Bernard Madoff's brother pleads guilty

NEW YORK (AP):In pleading guilty to criminal charges, Peter Madoff portrayed himself as a victim of a domineering older brother who he revered right up until an evening in December 2008 when his sibling revealed that his wildly successful investment business was a sham that lost its customers their nearly $20-billion investment.

"I was in total shock," Madoff said Friday as he described the confession by his older brother, Bernard. "My world was destroyed. I lost everything I worked for."

The 66-year-old Madoff said he was "deeply ashamed and terribly sorry," as he spoke angrily about his 74-year-old brother, who is serving a 150-year prison term after admitting his creation of the largest-known Ponzi scheme.

Myanmar opposition leader returns home

YANGON, Myanmar (AP):Cheering crowds welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi home yesterday from her triumphant tour of Europe, where she won enthusiastic support for her role in Myanmar's democratic transition and was celebrated like a head of state.

Thousands of jubilant supporters packed into Yangon's airport and lined the roads outside waving opposition party flags and holding banners, including one that said: "We are proud of you Mother Suu!"

Others were clearly impressed by the honorary doctorate degree she was awarded at Oxford University, shouting: "Long Live Dr Aung San Suu Kyi!"