AP Top News at 4:38 p.m. EDT

The Associated Press
View photos
In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and acquired by the AP, taken Monday April 18, 2011, Syrians pray in Clock Square in the center of the city of Homs, Syria. Syrian security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition Tuesday at hundreds of anti-government protesters who took over a main square in the country's third-largest city of Homs, witnesses and activists said. (AP Photo)

The No. 2 Republicans in the House and Senate have been named to a deficit panel led by Vice President Joe Biden that is tasked with developing a bipartisan plan to curb federal budget deficits. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona join several Democratic stalwarts on the panel, which meets next month. President Barack Obama set up the panel last week.

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria did away with 50 years of emergency rule Tuesday, but emboldened and defiant crowds accused President Bashar Assad of simply trying to buy time while he clings to power in one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East. Repealing the state of emergency, which gives authorities almost boundless powers of surveillance and arrest, was once the key demand of the monthlong uprising. But the protest movement has crossed a significant threshold, with increasing numbers now seeking nothing less than the downfall of the regime.

ATLANTA (AP) — A top U.S. health official said she cannot rule out future cost increases to Medicare beneficiaries, but predicted a Republican budget-cutting proposal would force beneficiaries to pay much more for health insurance. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius critiqued the GOP proposal Tuesday before the Atlanta Press Club, saying costs would rise if the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled became a voucher program. She predicted that in 10 years' time under the GOP plan, a 65-year-old would pay about $6,800 a year more for coverage than today.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters Tuesday, killing at least three amid rising international concern over the strategically located nation. The United Nations Security Council met late Tuesday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Yemen, where rights groups say two months of protests calling for the president to step down have claimed 120 lives.

BONNETSVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Shards of glass from old bottles and furniture smashed by a tornado that tore through town littered the concrete floor of Rhonda Carter's antique store, shattering her plans to open an auction house in nearby Salemburg. A storage area in the back was flattened. "I just had a feeling something bad was going to happen, and it did," Carter said of Saturday, when storms raged through Bonnetsville and other parts of North Carolina, killing at least 23 and damaging or destroying more than 800 homes. "Now I'm starting over."

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba's Communist Party stuck Tuesday with a slate of silver-haired icons of the revolution to spearhead a last-ditch effort to save the island's sputtering economy — surprising those who took to heart declarations by Raul and Fidel Castro that it was time to give way to a new generation of leaders. Delegates to a key Party Congress picked 79-year-old Raul Castro to replace his ailing brother at the helm, while weathered veterans moved up to the No. 2 and 3 positions. Three somewhat younger politicians were named to lesser roles in the leadership council, but it remained dominated by men who came of age before television, let alone the Internet.

HOUSTON (AP) — A kindergartener who brought a loaded gun to his Houston elementary school Tuesday was among three students injured by fragments when it fired after falling from his pocket as he sat down for lunch, officials said. One bullet was fired about 11 a.m. in the Ross Elementary School cafeteria, spraying fragments at the students, said Houston Independent School District Assistant Police Chief Robert Mock.

BOSTON (AP) — A federal agency approved a construction and operations plan for the Cape Wind project off the Massachusetts coast, clearing the way for work to begin on America's first offshore wind farm as early as this fall, U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar announced Tuesday. Approval by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement was required before construction of the proposed 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound could get under way.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen went before a Los Angeles judge Tuesday seeking custody of his twin sons with estranged wife Brooke Mueller, who also attended the closed hearing. No resolution was immediately announced. Sheen left the courthouse flanked by security and was on his way to catch a plane to Washington, DC, for a performance of his stage show. Mueller emerged from court smiling and hugged her attorney but declined to comment.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL and its players resumed court-ordered mediation Tuesday with a federal judge's decision expected soon on a request to immediately halt a lockout now in its second month. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined the NFL's contingent in Minneapolis as talks resumed following a three-day break. Jones walked in with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and others, including Denver owner Pat Bowlen and Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy. All declined comment.