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Dec. 28, 2009 at 5:00 PM
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Obama details new anti-terror steps

HONOLULU, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday the administration is taking new measures to guard American travelers from terrorist attacks.

Issuing a statement from his Hawaii vacation retreat, Obama sought to calm Americans made jittery by a botched Christmas Day terror attack aboard a Northwest Airlines flight in which a Nigerian man allegedly attempted to ignite an incendiary device.

"The American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure during this busy holiday season," he said.

Vowing to get to the bottom of incident in which Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, has been charged with attempting to destroy a flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Obama said, "A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism, and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable."

The president said he has ordered "immediate steps to ensure the safety of the traveling public," including enhancing screening procedures for all flights and adding air marshals.

He ordered a review of the federal watch list system, noting that Abdulmutallab "was in this system, but not on a watch list, such as the so-called no-fly list," and said an examination of the pre-flight screening system will also be undertaken.

Finally, Obama said he has ordered a stepped-up national security effort to "keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country."

Napolitano backtracks on 'system worked'

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano backtracked Monday on earlier comments the U.S. air safety system "worked."

Napolitano, appearing Monday on NBC's "Today Show," explained comments she made Sunday regarding an incident in which a Nigerian man allegedly ignited an incendiary device aboard a U.S. jetliner on Christmas Day were "taken out of context."

During a Sunday appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Napolitano said "What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel. And one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked."

That statement brought a harsh rebuke from U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and other Republicans.

Napolitano told "Today" she was referring to the system in place to respond to threats once they've been discovered.

"What I'm is saying is that once the incident occurred, moving forward, we were immediately able to notify the 128 flights in the air on protective measures to take, immediately able to notify law enforcement on the ground, airports both domestically and internationally, all carriers," she asserted.

Shiite procession scene of deadly blast

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- At least 25 people, including children, died Monday in a suicide bombing of a Shiite procession in the Pakistani financial center of Karachi, officials said.

Police said the bomber detonated his explosives in front of the procession in the city center as participants marked Ashura, a day of mourning for the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, The Times of London reported.

The attacker got into the procession of Shiites, a minority population in Pakistan, despite heavy security, officials said.

Karachi city police Chief Waseem Ahmed confirmed that at least 25 people were killed and 40 wounded, including children as young as 8 years old.

Violence broke out as protesters set afire vehicles and buildings, as well as attacked police, the British newspaper said.

Police said they arrested one suspect at the blast site.

Mayor Mustafa Kamal said the attack was part of an attempt to disrupt the peace in the country's commercial and financial city.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but police said they suspected Islamic militants.

Vatican vows prompt inquiry into attack

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The Vatican said Monday it will conduct a prompt investigation to determine if a woman should be charged for allegedly attacking Pope Benedict XVI.

The Italian news agency ANSA said dual Swiss and Italian citizen Susanna Maiolo is accused of attacking the 82-year-old head of the Catholic Church during Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter's Basilica.

Maiolo allegedly threw the pope to the ground during the incident, which resulted in Cardinal Roger Etchegaray breaking one of his legs. The pope was not hurt in the holiday incident.

Maiolo allegedly told authorities she simply wanted to touch the religious leader, not hurt him. The 25-year-old woman reportedly has a history of mental problems.

Vatican investigator Nicola Picardi said the Vatican's investigation into the incident would take less than a week.

ANSA said if Maiolo does face charges in a Vatican court and is convicted, she would serve out any jail sentences in Italy or Switzerland.

No word on activist who entered N. Korea

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- An activist who illegally crossed into North Korea from China to raise awareness of North Korea's human rights abuses likely was arrested, his parents said.

The parents of Korean-American Robert Park, 28, of Tucson, told the San Diego Union-Tribune they hoped for the best but feared he was taken prisoner by North Korean authorities after crossing the frozen Tumen River into the reclusive communist country Christmas Day. His parents said they moved to Encinitas, Calif., several years ago.

"We have to just patiently wait," Pyong Park said in a Union-Tribune article published Sunday. "Wait and see and hope for the best."

Other activists said Park also hoped to deliver a human rights-related message to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported. The activists said Park was the leader of a coalition of more than 100 groups concerned with North Korea's defectors and human rights condition.

The elder Park said the U.S. government has tried to locate his son by working through another country's embassy because the United States does not have a diplomatic presence in North Korea, the San Diego newspaper reported. Park said his son had been in Seoul since June as a missionary for North Korean refugees.

Poll: Healthcare for all will happen

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- More than half of participants in an online survey predicted all Americans would have access to healthcare within the next 10 years.

Fifty-two percent of participants indicated they believed same-sex marriage would be legal in at least 25 states, results from the Web-based Angus Reid survey released Monday showed.

Participants were less certain about whether Barack Obama would be returned to the White House in 2012. Forty-six percent of respondents said Obama's re-election was likely to happen while 44 percent of participants said the possibility was unlikely, the company's San Francisco office said.

Sixty percent of participants said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States was the most newsworthy event of the decade, followed by Obama's victory in 2008, a distant second at 13 percent.

Angus Reid Public Opinion is part of Vision Critical, a global research and technology company specializing in custom online panels, private communities, and innovative online methods, the company's Web site said. Vision Critical has five offices in Canada, and locations in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, Paris and Sydney.

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