OBAMA-NOBEL PEACE: U.S. President Barack Obama says he will use his Nobel Peace Prize to
lead the United States and the world on a path toward lasting peace and
securit. Mr. Obama is in Oslo, Norway, where he is due to formally accept the prestigous award Thursday. At a joint news conference with Norway's Prime Minister Jens
Stoltenberg, Mr. Obama ackowleged there are other people more deserving
of the Nobel prize. He said if he is successful in keeping the U.S. "a
force for good in the world" then some of the criticism that he
recieved the award prematurely will subside. Prime Minister Stoltenberg said Mr. Obama's efforts to solve such
issues as climate change and nuclear proliferation through diplomacy
represented the best spirit of Alfred Nobel, the award's creator.
The president is accepting the Nobel Peace Prize days after ordering the deployment of an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. He said he remains committed to a timetable to shift responsibility to the Afghan security forces by July 2011.
SEA GAMES: The Southeast Asian Games have opened in (Vientiane) Laos, with eight gold medals already determined before the official opening ceremony.
Fireworks lit up the sky and a flaming arrow was shot into a massive cauldron to light the torch on Wednesday. The opening ceremony was held at the 20,000-seat main stadium, part of a new $100 million National Sports Complex built with the help of China, Japan, Brunei, South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.
Burma got gold medals in the individual women's taekwondo and women's team sepak takraw. Vietnam won two taekwondo gold medals, one for the men's team and one for mixed pair. Thailand, Laos, the Philippines and Singapore each captured one gold medal. Thailand is expected to dominate the 10-day regional competition, which brings together athletes from 11 nations competing in 28 disciplines, down from 43 at the last Southeast Asian Games in Thailand.
PHILIPPINES-HOSTAGES: The Philippine military says gunmen have seized at least 75 people, most of them schoolchildren, after a raid on a remote elementary school in the southern Philippines. Military officials say the gunmen abducted the residents of a village on Mindanao island on Thursday. Police said 15 of the children were later released. The southern Philippines is plagued by banditry, loosely supervised government-armed militias, and Muslim and communist insurgents. Officials say police are pursuing the gunmen who appear to be using the hostages as human shields to escape. Last month, 57 people in an election convoy were massacred in southern Maguindanao province. The province has since been placed under martial law.
AFGHANISTAN: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Afghan military commanders
that the United States intends to be their partner for a long time to
come. During a gathering Thursday at the Kabul airport, Gates said the United
States will fulfill its commitment to Afghanistan, adding that the
relationship is one "forged in blood." Earlier in his visit, Gates said the United States is prepared to
provide troops to help Afghan forces for several years beyond the July
2011 date President Barack Obama established to begin withdrawing
troops. In related news, U.S. Army Lieutenant General William Caldwell told
reporters in Kabul Wednesday that more than 2,500 Afghans signed up to
join the army in the first seven days of December, compared to 831 in
all of September.
PAKISTAN-ARRESTS : Pakistani officials say five American men arrested there this week are being questioned over alleged links to extremist groups.
Pakistani police say the men were detained during a raid on the home of a local leader of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, in Sargodha, in Pakistan's Punjab province. In a statement, an FBI spokeswoman (Katherine Schweit) says the agency is trying to determine their identities and the nature of their business in Pakistan, and if they are five American students who have been missing since late November.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says it is in contact with the families of the five missing students as well as Pakistani authorities