Death toll from U.S. winter storm stands at 6


The winter storm besetting much of the United States so far has resulted in at least six deaths and has caused the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights, authorities announced.

The first death occurred on Tuesday in Houston, when strong winds blew over a tree that fell on a man.

The other five fatalities occurred in road accidents in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

The storm, which on Tuesday clobbered many of the southern states, is moving toward New England.

Snow and ice on Wednesday morning covered highways in southern Illinois and southern Indiana, and the nation's capital woke to a light snowfall.




Egypt's Morsi defends transparency of vote on constitution


Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi defended the transparency of the recent constitutional referendum, which was marked by low turnout and complaints of fraud, and he reiterated his call to the opposition to participate in a national dialogue.

In a speech with the aim of securing the enactment of the new charter, Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, emphasized that the plebiscite was conducted with complete judicial supervision and that Egypt is now beginning "a phase of stability and development."

"We have experienced days and weeks of worry and waiting, during which I have tried to get the homeland to a good port and do away with the transitory phase of almost two years, during which the economy has suffered and there have been political disputes," Morsi said.

To try to close the gap between the different political forces, Morsi once again urged a national dialogue, which for the moment the non-Islamist groups have been boycotting because of their rejection of the constitution and the most recent decisions of the president.

The Egyptian Election Commission announced on Tuesday the definitive results of the plebiscite on the new constitution in which the "yes" vote, supported by the Islamists, won with 63.8 percent of the ballots.




China launches high-speed rail linking Beijing, Canton


China unveiled the longest high-velocity train line in the world linking this capital with the country's most prosperous southern city, Canton, a stretch of track 2,298 kilometers (1,425 miles) long that puts the Asian giant in the leading position worldwide for this type of railway.

After a ceremony attended by government officials, the first bullet train to make the Beijing-Canton run departed at 9 a.m. from the capital's Western Station and one hour later the first train making the Canton-Beijing run departed from the other city.

The fastest trains on the line, with a maximum speed of 300 kph (186 mph), will make the journey in less than eight hours, compared to the 20 hours it takes by regular train service.




Woman gives birth in New York's Holland Tunnel


A healthy baby boy was born just outside the Holland Tunnel with the help of two employees of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, media outlets said.

Nassim Mohammed Elkarhat entered the world a little after 7:00 a.m. as his parents were en route from their home in Lodi, New Jersey, to a hospital in the city.

When it became clear the boy wasn't going to wait until they reached the hospital, the father pulled over near the exit on the Manhattan side, hopped out of the car and began yelling for help, the New York Daily News said.

The baby's head was beginning to emerge by the time a pair of civilian Port Authority agents reached the car.

The agents helped pull the baby from his mother's womb and fashioned a makeshift oxygen tent to shield little Nassim's lungs from the exhaust fumes of passing vehicles.




10 Dead, 17 injured in bus accident in Ecuador


At least 10 people were killed and 17 others injured in a bus accident in Tungurahua, a province in Ecuador's Andean region, media reports said.

The bus went off the highway and plunged into a 250-meter (820-foot) ravine while traveling from Ambato to Pillaro, the Ecuavisa television network said.

About 40 people were aboard the bus at the time of the accident, the television network said.




Bin Laden paid bribe to get permit for house in Pakistan


Osama bin Laden bribed a land registrar for the permit to build the house in the northern city of Abbottabad where he was killed by U.S. commandos in May 2011, Pakistani daily The News said.

Bin Laden paid the registrar 50,000 rupees (about $513), an official speaking on condition of anonymity told the newspaper, citing information found in the late al Qaeda leader's diary.

The registrar was not aware of Bin Laden's true identity, the source told The News.

The U.S. Navy SEALs who killed Bin Laden took tens of thousands of documents from the home in Abbottabad, but they left behind the diary, which was found by Pakistani security forces.




UAE takes down terror cell


Authorities in the United Arab Emirates said that they dismantled a terrorist cell comprising UAE and Saudi nationals, the official WAM news agency reported.

The group was plotting attacks in the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries, WAM said, without specifying how many people were arrested or when.

The news agency described the suspects as "deviants," a term often used for members of al Qaeda.

UAE security forces apprehended the suspects in cooperation with Saudi authorities.




Gunmen kill 9 in Mexico


At least nine people were killed by gunmen in El Platanar de los Ontiveros, a town in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, media reports said.

The town is located in a mountainous area outside the city of La Concordia, whose mayor, Eligio Medina, called on Sinaloa Gov. Mario Lopez Valdes to provide support to the families besieged by violence in the area.

Army troops and Sinaloa Attorney General's Office personnel removed the victims' bodies from the town, Medina said.




Syrian military police chief says he deserted


Syrian military police chief Gen. Abdulaziz al-Shalal confirmed in a video that he deserted.

The Syrian National Council, the main exile opposition group, had announced the general's desertion on Tuesday.

"I am announcing my desertion from the regime's army and my joining the revolution of the people," Al-Shalal said in the video.

The general is shown sitting and wearing his military uniform.




Japanese lawmakers name Shinzo Abe as new P.M.


Japan's Diet voted overwhelmingly to name Shinzo Abe, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, as the nation's new prime minister.

The 58-year-old Abe received the votes of 328 of the 480 members of the lower house.

The LDP, which ruled Japan almost without interruption from 1955-2009, swept back into power with a landslide in the Dec. 16 general elections.

Prior to Wednesday's vote in parliament, the outgoing Democratic Party administration of Yoshihiko Noda resigned en masse to make way for the return of Abe, who held the post of premier in 2006-2007.