Cuba: Lawmakers meet; Castro's chair empty

Cuba's parliament opened its year-end session Friday with the chair normally occupied by Fidel Castro empty, in the first meeting of the National Assembly of Popular Power since the 80-year-old leader fell ill. Cubans were riveted to Friday's meeting because of the mystery surrounding Castro's health after his July 31 intestinal surgery. As the session began, lawmakers sang the national anthem and observed a minute of silence for a parliament member who had died. Raul Castro, who temporarily took power from his elder brother after the surgery, sat in his customary seat just to the left of the chair normally used by Fidel Castro. National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon, as usual, presided over the session.