Obama chooses Shinseki for VA

WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy.

Obama will formally announce the selection at a news conference today in Chicago. Obama spoke in an interview with NBC's

Meet the Press

to be broadcast today. Shinseki is the first Army four-star general of Japanese-American ancestry.

Shinseki, 66, upset Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2003, when he told Congress it might take a few hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq. He was ousted for being "wildly off the mark," but his words proved prophetic after President Bush in early 2007 announced a "surge" of additional troops to Iraq.

- AP

Assisted suicide legal in Montana

HELENA, Mont. - A Montana judge has ruled that doctor-assisted suicides are legal in the state, a decision likely to be appealed as the state argues that the legislature, not the court, should decide whether terminally ill patients have the right to take their own life.

Judge Dorothy McCarter issued the ruling late Friday in the case of a 75-year-old Billings man with terminal cancer, who had sued the state with four physicians that treat terminally ill patients and a nonprofit patients' rights group.

"The Montana constitutional rights of individual privacy and human dignity, taken together, encompass the right of a competent terminally [ill] patient to die with dignity," McCarter said in the ruling. Attorney General Mike McGrath said yesterday that he expected the state would appeal the ruling.

- AP

Ohio apartment blaze kills five

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A fire in an apartment complex killed five people early yesterday, four of them children, as water sprayed on the flames by firefighters turned to ice in bitterly cold weather.

Flames already were billowing from both floors of the two-story townhouses when firefighters arrived. Firefighters tried to force their way into the building, but turned back when the structure started to give way, said Fire Battalion Chief Doug Smith.

Two children standing outside the building told firefighters that their relatives were trapped inside, Smith said. He said the victims were a 40-year-old woman and four children ages 5, 7, 10 and 12.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Diapers, latex gloves

and other items found in an ex-astronaut's car can be used as evidence when the woman accused of driving 1,000 miles to confront a romantic rival goes to trial, an appeals court in Florida ruled Friday. Lisa Nowak is accused of trying to abduct Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman from Orlando's airport last year while the women were vying for the affections of a fellow astronaut.

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake

struck a sparsely populated area of California's Mojave Desert on Friday night. The shaking was felt from Southern California to the fringes of Nevada and Arizona, but there were no immediate reports of damage.