Chavez arrives in Cuba for care

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Cuba on Monday for a fourth cancer-related operation after designating the vice president as his political heir.

Chavez was greeted by Cuban President Raul Castro in the early-morning darkness after his plane touched down at Havana's Jose Martí Airport. The men hugged and smiled for the cameras, but made no comments about the visit or the Venezuelan leader's condition.

Chavez, 58, plans to undergo surgery in the coming days. He said on television in Venezuela on Saturday that tests had found a return of "some malignant cells" in the area where tumors had been removed.

He said that if he suffered complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. - AP

N. Korea finds rocket problem

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said Monday that a technical glitch had been found in the rocket it had planned to launch as early as this week to put a satellite in orbit, but that it still planned to try the launching this month.

North Korea announced Dec. 1 that it would launch the rocket, called the Unha-3, sometime between Monday and Dec. 22. But it said Sunday that it might have to delay the launching, without specifying a reason.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Korean Committee of Space Technology said scientists had found "a technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module" of the three-stage rocket. The spokesman was quoted by the state-run Korean Central News Agency as saying that scientists were forced to extend the window for a launching by a week, until Dec. 29. - N.Y. Times News Service

A school-reform plan in Mexico

MEXICO CITY - President Enrique Pena Nieto is proposing sweeping reforms to the public education system widely seen as moribund, taking on an iron-fisted union leader who is considered the country's most powerful woman and the main obstacle to change.

Flanked by the leaders of Mexico's three major parties, Pena Nieto said Monday that within hours he would send Congress the initiative to, among other things, create a professional system for hiring and promoting teachers and not the "discretionary criteria" used now, with positions often bought or inherited.

The plan, with multiparty support, moves much of the control of the education system from the 1.5-million-member National Union of Education Workers to the federal government. - AP

Elsewhere:

Chinese police

officials have detained a Tibetan monk and his nephew and accused them of playing a role in a series of self-immolations, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. The police said the monk was connected with eight self-immolations, Xinhua reported Sunday. The two men were apparently detained in August; it was unclear why Xinhua did not report on them until now.