YEMEN: The U.S. Embassy in Yemen says it is closed Sunday because of ongoing
threats by the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula "to attack
American interests" in the country. The short news release issued by the embassy in Sana'a (Sunday) did not say if the closure was in response to any specific threat. The statement said that on Thursday, the embassy issued a message to
American citizens in Yemen, urging them to remain vigilant amid "the
continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence" against Americans
throughout the world.
In another development, Britain has agreed with the United States to
fund a counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen as part of stepped-up
efforts to combat the terror threat from that country following an
al-Qaida plot to bomb a U.S. airliner. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office issued a statement
Saturday saying Britain and the U.S. will also cooperate in supporting
the Yemeni coast guard. The British prime minister announced Friday he will host a high-level international meeting on Yemen late this month (January 28).
AFGHANISTAN: The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan says parliament's rejection
of 70 percent of President Hamid Karzai's Cabinet nominees is a
"political setback" that will prolong the establishment of a functional
government. Kai Eide said Sunday in Kabul the rejection of 17 of the 24 nominees is
"particularly worrying" for a country facing as many challenges as
Afghanistan. He said Mr. Karzai needs to focus his attention on reform
programs to stabilize the country. Instead, Mr. Karzai must now
spend political energy submitting another roster of nominees for
parliamentary approval. A Cabinet must be approved before the new
government can officially begin work. Among the nominees rejected by parliament Saturday in secret balloting
were incumbent Energy Minister Ismail Khan, a former warlord accused of
human rights abuses. Parliament also rejected the only female in the
Cabinet, the incumbent minister of Women's Affairs.
DENMARK - CARTOONIST: Danish authorities have charged a Somali man with two counts of
attempted murder for Friday's attack on cartoonist Kurt Westergaard,
whose depiction of the Prophet Muhammad angered the Muslim world in
2005. The 28-year-old suspect with alleged links to terrorist groups
al-Shabab and al-Qaida was was rolled into a Danish court on a
stretcher Saturday, and was charged with the attempted murder of the
cartoonist and a policeman. He denied the charges. Denmark's police say the man, armed with a knife and an ax, broke into
Westergaard's home near the town of Aarhus, about 200 kilometers
northwest of the capital Copenhagen. The 74-year-old cartoonist fled with his granddaughter to a special
safe room in the house, where he could call police.
BRAZIL - MUDSLIDES: Rescue crews in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state are continuing to search
for survivors of mudslides that have killed at least 64 people in the
southeastern coastal region. Rescue teams were out in force Saturday after the mudslides and
flooding triggered by heavy rains struck several coastal resort towns
Thursday and Friday. Mounds of mud destroyed a hotel and buried homes in the beach town of
Angra dos Reis. A similar slide was reported on the island of Ilha
Grande. The coastal region is marked by steep coastal hillsides that gave way
in many areas after at least three days of rain earlier in the week. Officials say hundreds of tourists were at the resorts to celebrate the New Year's holiday. Rains had subsided Saturday but, officials fear heavy rains forecast for the next few days could trigger more mudslides.
BURMA PAY: Officials in Burma say the military government has agreed to raise the
salaries of low-paid civil servants ahead of a general election planned
this year. A regime official said the new pay scale will take effect at the end of January. Under the new scale, civil servants with the lowest pay of $15 to $80 a
month will receive a $20 a month hike. Workers receiving salaries above
$100 are excluded from the plan. Burma, one of the world's poorest countries, has been hit hard by the
spiraling price of commodities and consumer items, such as rice and
cooking oil. Massive fuel price hikes in August 2007 sparked violent protests in the country.
CHINA WEATHER: Heavy snow hit the Chinese capital of Beijing Sunday,snarling traffic and stranding thousands of people at the main airport. The Beijing meteorological station said snow storms are expected to
continue through Monday, accompanied by some of the coldest
temperatures in decades. Beijing, which has seen little winter snow over the past few years, has
experienced several storms so far this season, including at least one
man-made snowstorm to help ease a lengthy drought. According to weather forecasts, bad weather is also affecting large
areas of northern and northeastern China, with snow and plunging
temperatures expected to continue into the first full week of the new
AUSTRALIA - FLOODS: Australian officials say rescue workers have evacuated more than 400
people from the rural town of Coonamble, after days of rain and
flooding in New South Wales state over the New Year. Phil Campbell from the State Emergency Service says the town is likely
to be isolated for at least a day. He said the local river (Castlereagh River) is expected to peak at around 5.5 meters in the early hours of Monday morning and could breach the levy. A Bureau of Meteorology spokesman said the flood is the biggest in the area in a decade.
For Lao translation of these news, click on our audio files at top right.