— From wire reports
New government in Tunisia — Shaken by the assassination of a prominent leftist opposition leader that unleashed major protests, Tunisia’s prime minister announced Wednesday that he would form a new government of technocrats to guide the country to elections “as soon as possible." The decision by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali was a clear concession to the opposition, which has long demanded a reshuffle of the Islamist-dominated government. It also came hours after the first assassination of a political leader in post-revolutionary Tunisia. The killing of 48-year-old Chokri Belaid, a secularist and fierce critic of Ennahda, the moderate ruling Islamist party, marked an escalation in the country’s political violence and sparked allegations of government negligence — even outright complicity. It also bolstered fears that Tunisia’s transition to democracy will be far more chaotic than originally hoped.
REI chief tapped for interior secretary — President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Sally Jewell, the chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc., to lead the Interior Department, with a vow that she will balance the agency’s sometimes conflicting mandates to promote resource development and preserve the nation’s natural heritage. If confirmed, Jewell, 56, a former oil company engineer and longtime advocate for conservation and outdoor recreation, will take over a department that has been embroiled in controversy over the regulation of oil and gas on public lands and in the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean. She also will be the steward of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands, from the Everglades of Florida to the Cascades of Washington state.
Three die in Denver shooting — Two young children and a woman were killed and a third child was wounded in a shooting at a northeast Denver house, police said Wednesday. The wounded child was in critical condition at Denver Health Medical Center. The shooting appeared to have been isolated and there was no indication a shooter was on the loose, police Major Crimes Cmdr. Ron Saunier said. Police declined to say whether it was a murder-suicide. The names and relationships of the victims weren’t immediately released.
Japan protests Chinese use of radar — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced China’s use of weapons-targeting radar on one of Japan’s naval vessels as provocative, saying the move will undermine efforts to ease tensions over a territorial dispute. “This was a dangerous action that could lead to unforeseen circumstances," Abe said Wednesday in parliament in Tokyo. A Chinese ship used fire-control radar on a Japanese destroyer on Jan. 30, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Tuesday in Tokyo. He declined to specify the location, which broadcaster NHK earlier reported was near islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by both nations.
Mali conflict may enter new phase — Amid reports of continued skirmishes with Islamist extremists driven out of the main settlements of northern Mali, France renewed a promise Wednesday that its soldiers would begin returning home within weeks, handing over authority to West African and Malian units charged with keeping the vast desert area under government control. But French officials acknowledged that, despite their claimed military successes so far, new hostilities had erupted Tuesday near the northern town of Gao between what were depicted as remnants of the insurgents and French and Malian forces, possibly foreshadowing a new phase in the conflict.
German chancellor backs disgraced minister — German Chancellor Angela Merkel rallied behind her education and research minister who was stripped of her doctorate amid allegations of plagiarism, the second Cabinet minister in two years accused of plagiarizing a PhD thesis.Annette Schavan said that she was challenging the decision by the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf after concluding Tuesday that she had “systematically" copied parts of her 1980 doctoral thesis on philosophy. Schavan, 57, who is on an official trip to South Africa, said she wouldn’t resign, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.
Crashes kill four on Georgia freeway — A chain-reaction series of collisions on Interstate 16 in Georgia killed four people Wednesday and injured nine. Seven tractor trailers and 20 other vehicles were involved in the major pileup near the Bleckley/Laurens County line that began just before 8:15 a.m. Michael Jarome Smith, 52, of Covington, Ga.; Jeff Moore, of Effingham County, Ga.; and Clayton and Josephine Warnock, of Dublin, Ga., were killed in the crash, according to the Laurens County Coroner’s Office. Troopers were in the area investigating smoke from a controlled burn before the first calls came in about the accidents. The region was also under a dense fog advisory for visibilities of less than a quarter of a mile. Two tractor trailers caught fire and one exploded, Twiggs County deputies say.