Nation/World Briefs

Obama picks outdoor retail executive to lead Interior

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s choice for interior secretary is a lifelong outdoors enthusiast who likes to bike, ski and climb mountains.

As president and chief executive at Recreational Equipment Inc., Sally Jewell has applied her passion to her job, helping push REI to nearly $2 billion in annual revenues and a place on Fortune Magazine’s list of “Best Places to Work.”

Now Obama hopes to take advantage of Jewell’s love for the outdoors and her business sense as she takes over at Interior, the federal department responsible for national parks and other public lands.

In announcing the nomination, Obama said Jewell has earned national recognition for her environmental stewardship at REI, which sells clothing and gear for outdoor enthusiasts. He also noted her experience as an engineer in oil fields and her fondness for mountain climbing.

Brennan CIA bid may expose tactics against al-Qaida

WASHINGTON – A Senate hearing on John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA could lay bare some parts of the secret war against al-Qaida: lethal drone strikes from covert bases against even American terror suspects, harsh interrogation methods and long detention of suspects without due process.

Some of the practices produced revulsion among some in Congress and the public, but the outcry has been muted because Brennan and others say that these harsh and secretive methods have saved American lives.

Those issues will be front and center in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing today for Brennan – a chance for him to answer criticism that he backed the detention and interrogation policy while he served at the CIA under President George W. Bush, charges that stymied his first attempt to head the intelligence agency in 2008.

Tunisia to shake up government after killing

TUNIS, 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.

Heavy clashes frighten residents in Syrian capital

BEIRUT – Syrian rebels and regime forces fought their most intense clashes in weeks inside the heavily guarded capital of Damascus on Wednesday, activists said, with the sounds of shell blasts echoing through the downtown area and keeping many children home from school while residents hid in their houses.

The opposition fighters blasted army checkpoints with rifles and anti-aircraft guns while government forces shelled the eastern and southern suburbs, trying to repel a new insurgent effort to push the civil war into the heart of the capital, the anti-regime activists said.

Although bordered by rebellious suburbs that have seen fierce fighting, widespread clashes have remained mostly on the capital’s edges, saving it from the destruction that has ravaged other major cities such as Aleppo and Homs.

Associated Press