Drone strike — A U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed a top Taliban commander who sent money and fighters to battle the U.S. in Afghanistan but had a truce with the Pakistani military, officials said Thursday. Eight others were also killed. Maulvi Nazir’s death is likely to be seen in Washington as affirmation of the necessity of the controversial U.S. drone program. It is likely to be viewed in a different light by military officials in Pakistan, however, because Nazir did not focus on Pakistani targets.
Geithner to leave — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner plans to leave the administration at the end of January, even if President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans haven’t reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, according to sources. Geithner, 51, is the only remaining member of Obama’s original economic team. White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew is the leading contender for the Treasury job.
Oil rig update — A Shell Oil drilling rig that ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska has incurred water damage to its deck and electrical systems but is otherwise stable, officials with the response team handling the incident said Thursday. The Coast Guard and company officials said there was no sign that any of the roughly 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lubricants aboard the vessel had leaked or of other environmental damage caused by the rig.
Gulf spill penalty — Transocean, the owner of the drilling rig that exploded and led to the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, will pay $1.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties, the Justice Department said Thursday. Transocean’s punishment was considerably smaller than that of BP, which has already agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties and has pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of manslaughter and other criminal charges.
Guns at airports — The number of guns confiscated at airports across the United States is on the rise, the Transportation Security Administration says. A record-setting 1,500 firearms were detected by security screeners in 2012. That number is up from about 1,300 guns in 2011. Nearly 85 percent of the weapons were loaded.
Falklands fight — In an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron published Thursday in Britain and U.S. newspapers, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said Britain should hand over the Falkland Islands, which were “forcibly stripped" from Argentina 180 years ago, on Jan. 3, 1833. Cameron on Thursday rebuffed her call, 31 years after the two countries went to war over the South Atlantic archipelago. “The future of the Falkland Islands should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves," Cameron said. The U.K. government has called a referendum for March in which the 3,000 islanders, most of whom are of British descent, could choose their government.
Swiss shooting — Three women were shot to death in Daillon, Switzerland, on Thursday, allegedly by a mentally ill man who is now in police custody. The country of 8 million people has some 2.5 million legal firearms, and the incident is unlikely to change gun laws in a place where firearms are seen as integral to national traditions of self-reliance, independence and international neutrality.
Terrorism extradition — Abid Naseer, a Pakistani man living in Britain who is accused of plotting terrorist attacks there, was extradited Thursday to face terrorism charges in New York. He is the latest person to face charges in what prosecutors described as a conspiracy controlled by a few al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan to bomb sites in the U.S. and Europe. Naseer was among a group of men arrested by British authorities in 2009 and accused of being part of a terrorist cell.
Syria airbase — Syrian troops and rebels fought intense battles Thursday around a strategic airbase in the country’s north and a suburb of the capital that government forces have been trying to capture since last month, activists and state media said. The fighting is part of the escalating violence in a Syrian civil war that the United Nations estimates has killed more than 60,000 people since the revolt against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.
Veterans parade tragedy — A Texas grand jury is expected to determine whether charges should be filed in the Nov. 15 train crash in Midland that killed four wounded veterans riding a parade float. Investigators are still picking through the particulars of what happened during the accident. The driver of the truck pulling the trailer is suspected of driving onto the train tracks while crossing warnings were going off.
India rape charges — Rape, murder and other charges were filed Thursday against five of the men suspected of carrying out the gang rape of a 23-year-old student who later died. A court official announced that beyond rape and murder, the charges include destruction of evidence and the attempted murder of the woman’s companion, a list of crimes that could result in the rare imposition of the death penalty.