Biden: Cheney weakened U.S.

WASHINGTON - Vice President Biden said yesterday that his predecessor, Dick Cheney, was "dead wrong" when he said last month that President Obama's national-security policies were making the United States less safe.

The exact opposite is true, Biden said, adding that President George W. Bush's vice president was part of a dysfunctional decision-making system.

"The last administration left us in a weaker posture than we've been any time since World War II: less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world," Biden said on CNN's The Situation Room. "And so we've been about the business of repairing and strengthening those."

He said: "Look, everybody talks about how powerful Cheney was. His power weakened America, in my view." - AP

Minn. count adds to Franken's lead

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Democrat Al Franken's lead in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race widened yesterday to 312 votes after previously rejected absentee ballots were added to the counting.

Franken did better than Republican Norm Coleman by a nearly 2-to-1 margin as the ballots were opened and counted as part of a lawsuit brought by Coleman over the statewide recount. A three-judge panel ruled earlier that 351 ballots had been improperly rejected during the election and should be restored.

Franken led by 225 votes going into yesterday's count.

The judges have yet to settle some claims in Coleman's suit, but the absentees were the key issue that could have given Coleman enough votes to overtake Franken. Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said he would appeal to the state Supreme Court. Franken attorney Marc Elias said he doubted an appeal would change the result. - AP

51-month term for giving China data

WASHINGTON - A Virginia physicist was sentenced to 51 months in prison for giving U.S. space-launch data to China and offering bribes to Chinese officials, the Justice Department said.

Shu Quan-Sheng, 68, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in China, pleaded guilty in November to two counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and one count of bribery. U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan Jr. in Norfolk imposed the sentence yesterday.

Shu is president of AMAC International Inc., a high-tech company in Newport News, Va., the Justice Department said in a statement. The company's web site says it has received research grants from NASA and the Energy Department. China denies it bought U.S. military space technology from Shu. - Bloomberg News

Elsewhere:

Two paintings from the 1500s that hung for decades in Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., are being returned to the family of Holocaust victims who were forced to sell them by the Nazis, California authorities said yesterday.

The deportation of alleged Nazi death-camp guard John Demjanjuk, of suburban Cleveland, should be blocked because forcing the frail 89-year-old to go to Germany would amount to torture, his attorney said in a new court filing.