Briefs, January 26, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2013, 4:25am

McDonough named as Obama's chief of staff

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama named Denis McDonough, his deputy national security adviser, as White House chief of staff. McDonough, 43, replaces Jack Lew, who has been nominated to be Obama's new treasury secretary. A member of Obama's inner circle, McDonough was a top national security aide during the president's first term. The White House chief of staff is traditionally the president's closest collaborator, running the administration from the West Wing. Unlike cabinet posts, the chief of staff's appointment is not subject to confirmation by the US Senate. AFP


Deputy's death a 'big blow' for al-Qaeda

DUBAI - The death of the deputy chief of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Saeed al-Shehri, has dealt a severe blow to what Washington considers the jihadist group's deadliest branch, analysts say. Yemen said on Thursday that Shehri, a Saudi national and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, was killed in a November 28 counterterrorism operation in the northern province of Saada. Washington says the Yemeni branch is the most active and deadliest in al-Qaeda, and the only one that poses a real threat to the US on its home soil. AFP


Russian gay activists arrested for 'kiss-in'

MOSCOW - Russian police detained 20 people when gay activists tried to stage a "kiss-in" outside parliament to protest against a draft law banning the promotion of homosexuality among minors. Police hauled away the protesters just before the lower house, the State Duma, was due to hold the first of three readings of the legislation. Supporters of the law cheered as the police stepped in. If approved by the two houses of parliament, and signed by President Vladimir Putin, the law would ban the promotion of gay events across Russia and impose fines on the organisers. Reuters


Intrepid Pole survives voyage of the damned

SYDNEY - A Polish man was lucky to be alive after sailing from Papua New Guinea to a northern Australian island on a raft made of twigs and sticks, through crocodile and shark-infested waters, during a cyclone. The man was found washed up on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait, a treacherous stretch of water that lies between the two countries. What made his survival even more miraculous was that he attempted the trip in the aftermath of Cyclone Oswald, with 1.5 metre swells and 40 knot winds. AFP