- - Monday, July 2, 2012

DALLAS — Former President George W. Bush has been helping to renovate a women’s cancer-screening center in Zambia during a weeklong trip to Africa.

Mr. Bush, clad in a T-shirt and jeans, painted and hauled lumber at the Ngungu Health Center in Kabwe, about 90 miles north of the Zambian capital, Lusaka. The center will start screening and treating women Tuesday for cervical cancer and precancer.

The former president and his wife, Laura, are in Africa to promote a partnership among the George W. Bush Institute, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, UNAIDS and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, that aims to fight cervical and breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center says the Bushes arrived in Africa over the weekend.

KENTUCKY

McConnell: Odds long to undo health care law

ELIZABETHTOWN — It’s on his to-do list, but U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell says the odds are against repealing the health care law championed by President Obama.

The Kentucky Republican said Monday it’s hard to unravel something of the magnitude of the 2,700-page health care law, whas-tv reports.

“If you thought it was a good idea for the federal government to go in this direction, i’d say the odds are still on your side,” Mr. McConnell said. “Because it’s a lot harder to undo something than it is to stop it in the first place.”

Mr. McConnell discussed the law in comments to about 50 people at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown. the state’s senior senator was making stops at Kentucky hospitals discussing what’s next since last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that the law was constitutional.

The high court upheld the law’s crucial mandate that individuals buy health insurance or face a penalty.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a conservative, provided the pivotal vote in that decision by ruling that the penalty was legal under the government’s taxing authority. while technically handing a political victory to Mr. Obama, Chief Justice Roberts’ ruling invigorated Republicans eager to cast the law as a new tax.

Mr. McConnell still says he’ll do whatever he can to repeal the law.

If given control of the Senate next year, Mr. McConnell said he would support using budget reconciliation rules to repeal it. doing so would prohibit senate filibusters and require only 51 votes to succeed. In 2010, Republicans lambasted Democrats for relying on these rules to pass the health care bill, calling their tactics unusual and hyperpartisan.

IOWA

Ranchers, lawmakers protest EPA flyovers

DES MOINES — The Environmental Protection Agency’s use of airplanes to scour for signs of improper disposal of livestock waste has angered ranchers and some members of congress.

The dispute is centered in Nebraska, where ranchers complain the EPA kept its aerial inspections quiet until revealing them at a meeting three months ago.

Ranchers complained to their members of congress, who seem to be nearly as annoyed with the EPA’s sluggish response to their inquiries as they are about the flights themselves.

The EPA says the flights are a cost-effective way to protect waterways from runoff carrying livestock waste.

The EPA says the flights have led to 39 enforcement actions against Iowa livestock farmers and 14 against those in Nebraska.

COMMERCE

Construction spending rose 0.9 percent in May

U.S. builders increased their spending in May by the largest amount in five months. a surge in home building and an increase in nonresidential projects helped offset a fifth monthly decline in government building projects.

The commerce department says construction spending rose 0.9 percent in May, following a 0.6 percent rise in April. It was the biggest percentage gain since december.

The May increase pushed spending to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $830 billion. that is 11.3 percent above a 12-year low hit in February 2011. still, the level of spending is roughly half of what economists consider to be healthy.

Residential construction rose 3 percent to an annual rate of $261.3 billion, further evidence that housing has finally started to mount a modest recovery.

CAMPAIGN

Romney planning to visit Israel over the summer

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is planning a trip to Israel this summer.

An aide to Mr. Romney confirms that a trip is being planned. No details are immediately available about exactly when and where the candidate will visit.

A trip to Israel would be designed in part to help Mr. Romney shore up support among Jewish voters, evangelical voters and conservatives.

During the Republican presidential primary, Mr. Romney accused President Obama of throwing Israel, in his words, “under the bus.” Mr. Romney has also said that his policy toward the Jewish state would be the opposite of Mr. Obama’s.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama offers condolences in firefighting plane crash

President Obama is expressing condolences to families of North Carolina Air National Guard crew members who died in a crash while fighting fires in South Dakota.

Mr. Obama said in a statement Monday the incident was still under investigation and offered no details about the circumstances of the crash.

He voiced concern for the well-being of survivors.

The military cargo plane crashed Sunday while fighting a wildfire in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The plane had six crew members aboard. Authorities said it crashed after dropping fire retardant.

The crash occurred two days after Mr. Obama visited the scene of wildfire damage in Colorado.

In his statement Monday, Mr. Obama praised those battling fires across the West, saying they were putting their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports