World briefs – March 12

A spokesman for a group of nuclear power plants in New Jersey says a U.S. man charged in Yemen with being a member of al-Qaida had previously worked at the plants.

Terror suspect worked at nuke plants

BUENA, N.J. — A spokesman for a group of nuclear power plants in New Jersey says a U.S. man charged in Yemen with being a member of al-Qaida had previously worked at the plants.

PSEG Nuclear spokesman Joe Delmar says Sharif Mobley worked as a labourer for several contractors at its three plants on Artificial Island in Lower Alloways Creek from 2002 to 2008 carrying supplies and doing maintenance work.

Delmar says he satisfied federal background checks as recently as 2008.

He says that the 26-year-old Mobley also worked at other plants in the region. Delmar says the plant is co-operating with authorities.

Nuclear reactors remain a tempting target for terrorists, requiring ever vigilant security measures.

Yemeni officials confirmed on Thursday that Mobley is in custody.

God OK in pledge, on currency

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the use of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency, rejecting arguments on Thursday that the phrases violate the separation of church and state.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected two legal challenges by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow, who claimed the references to God disrespect his religious beliefs.

“The Pledge is constitutional,” Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority in the 2-1 ruling. “The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded.”

In a separate 3-0 ruling Thursday, the appeals court upheld the inscription of the national motto “In God We Trust” on coins and currency, saying that the phrase is ceremonial and patriotic, not religious.

Reached on his cellphone, Newdow said he hadn’t been aware that the appeals court had ruled against him Thursday.

“Oh man, what a bummer,” he said.

Newdow said he would comment further after he had read the decisions.

Sweden recognizes Armenian genocide

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Sweden’s parliament narrowly approved a resolution Thursday recognizing the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.

Swedish news agency TT said Turkey recalled its ambassador from Sweden to protest the surprise decision, which was taken in a 131-130 vote in the 349-seat assembly. Eighty-eight lawmakers were absent during the vote.

“After 95 years it is time for people who have suffered so long to obtain redress,” said Gulan Avci, a Liberal Party lawmaker who broke with her party’s line and voted to recognize the Armenian genocide. Avci is a Kurdish immigrant from Turkey.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

The governing centre-right coalition opposed the measure but it passed because a handful of centre-right lawmakers sided with the left-leaning opposition, which had proposed the resolution.

Chavez thanks Penn for defending him

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is grateful that actor Sean Penn has defended him against his critics within the U.S. media.

In an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” last week, Penn slammed Chavez critics who refer to the socialist leader as a dictator.

The Oscar-winning celebrity noted that Chavez has won repeated elections and suggested that media critics who call him a dictator should be jailed.

He says that “there should be a bar for which one goes to prison for these kinds of biases.”

Penn has visited Chavez several times and frequently defends the president’s leftist political policies.

Chavez welcomed Penn’s comments Wednesday and thanked the actor for standing up to his detractors.

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