Obama tabs Hagel as secretary of defense


U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Republican former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of defense.

In a speech from the East Room of the White House, in which he also announced the nomination of counterterrorism chief John Brennan as new director of the CIA, Obama called Hagel "the leader that our troops deserve."

The president thanked Panetta for his work since 2011 as head of the Pentagon and part of "an incredible national security team," and reviewed such achievements as the withdrawal from Iraq, the transition in Afghanistan and the death of Osama bin Laden.

With regard to Hagel, who was on hand for the occasion, the president noted the two Purple Hearts he received for his service in Vietnam and that, if confirmed, the Nebraskan will become the first former enlisted man to serve as defense secretary.




Hillary Clinton returns to work after long convalescence


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned to work in her office in Washington after being absent from public life for a month with health problems.

Clinton, who will leave her post this month and be replaced by Sen. John Kerry, began her return to the State Department with a meeting behind closed doors with her aides.

The last time Clinton, 65, had appeared in public was on December 7, shortly before she developed stomach problems that caused her to become dehydrated and experience a fainting spell, during which she hit her head.




Shooter wounds 7 in Chile


Seven people were wounded when a man wielding a shotgun opened fire on pedestrians in the coastal city of Valparaiso, Chilean media outlets said.

The incident occurred around 2 p.m., when a man, whose identity and motive are so far unknown, opened fire on people on O'Higgins Square in downtown Valparaiso near Chile's Congress.

The man was tackled by several people and arrested later by police, according to reports on state television.




Guatemalan students burn bus to protest education reform


A group of students from the state University of San Carlos set fire to a public bus in protest against the educational overhaul approved by the Guatemalan government and set to take effect in the coming days.

No one was hurt in the incident.

A police spokesperson told reporters that a group of "supposed university students, who covered their faces with ski masks, hijacked a bus and set it on fire" outside the San Marcos campus.




Controversy swirls in Venezuela ahead of inauguration


Supporters and opponents of Venezuela's ailing President Hugo Chavez, who won re-election last October, continued to argue over whether a failure to hold the inauguration as scheduled three days from now would leave the country without a legitimate government.

The 58-year-old head of state remains hospitalized in Cuba almost four weeks after undergoing his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months.

Even if Chavez does not take the oath of office on Thursday, Caracas will be the scene of rallies and other events to mark the day, National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello said.




Dominican authorities turn away thousands of Haitians


Thousands of Haitian immigrants are remaining on the bridge separating their country from the Dominican Republic to protest the refusal of authorities to allow them to enter this country because their documents are not in order.

The binational market held on Mondays and Fridays here in Dajabon was cancelled Monday because of the confusion and the tension in the border zone.

Elite army troops with combat rifles, along with police officers and immigration inspectors were deployed by Dominican authorities at the border crossing point.

The officers returned to Haitian territory several dozen immigrants who were trying to enter the Dominican Republic illegally at spots near the border post.




Fishermen find U.S. drone off Philippines


Fishermen found an unmanned U.S. drone floating in the sea off the central Philippines, military spokesmen said.

The drone was discovered on Sunday and the U.S. Embassy in Manila was informed, a Philippine navy spokesman said, without providing details on what the aircraft was doing near Masbate Island.

The fishermen handed the drone over to police in the town of San Jacinto and officers delivered it to the armed forces, GMA television reported.