World briefs – December 29

Talking publicly for the first time since a failed Christmas Day plot to blow up a U.S. airliner in flight, President Barack Obama called it on Monday “a serious reminder” of the need to adapt continually to the terror threat facing the United States.

Obama orders review of air safety

HONOLULU — Talking publicly for the first time since a failed Christmas Day plot to blow up a U.S. airliner in flight, President Barack Obama called it on Monday “a serious reminder” of the need to adapt continually to the terror threat facing the United States.

Even as Obama vowed to use “every element of our national power” to keep Americans safe, word came that a U.S. State Department warning had failed to trigger an effort to revoke the alleged attacker’s visa. Officials in Yemen confirmed that the suspect had been living in that country, where an al-Qaida-affiliated group quickly sought to take responsibility for his actions.

The incident prompted stiffer airport boarding measures and authorities warned holiday travellers to expect extra delays as they return home this week and beyond.

Members of Congress questioned how a man flagged as a possible terrorist managed to board a commercial flight into the United States carrying powerful explosives in a failed attempt to bring down the jetliner. Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said Monday that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he chairs would hold hearings in January.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack as retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen. Yemeni forces, helped by U.S. intelligence, carried out two airstrikes against al-Qaida operatives this month in lawless areas of Yemen.

The second attack in Yemen occurred a day before 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight as it prepared to land in Detroit.


Iran holds bodies of slain protesters

CAIRO, Egypt — Iranian authorities said Monday that they were holding the bodies of five slain anti-government protesters, including the nephew of the opposition leader, in what appeared to be an attempt to prevent activists from using their funerals for more demonstrations.

Pro-reform Web sites and activists said the government also detained at least eight prominent opposition figures — including a former foreign minister — in an intensified crackdown that could fuel more violence of the kind that engulfed the centre of Tehran on Sunday. The activity pushed the camps beyond any immediate prospect of reconciliation or compromise.

Hardliners, including clerical groups and the elite Revolutionary Guard, issued statements urging the country’s judiciary to take action against the opposition for violating Islamic principles and insulting the head of Iran’s religious leadership, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


Gay couple weds in Latin America

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Two Argentine men were joined Monday in Latin America’s first same-sex marriage, travelling to the southernmost tip of the Americas to find welcoming spot to wed.

Gay rights activists Jose Maria Di Bello and Alex Freyre were married in Ushauaia, the capital of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego state, in a ceremony witnessed by officials.

“My knees didn’t stop shaking,” Di Bello said. “We are the first gay couple in Latin America to marry.”

The couple had previously tried to marry in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires but were thwarted by officials citing conflicting rulings. Argentina’s Constitution is silent on whether marriage must be between a man and a woman, leaving the matter to state and city officials.

Tierra del Fuego Gov. Fabiana Rios said in a statement that gay marriage “is an important advance in human rights and social inclusion and we are very happy that this has happened in our state.”

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