World/Nation Briefs

American Airlines, US Airways to create largest airline

DALLAS – American Airlines and US Airways will merge and create the world’s biggest airline. The boards of both companies approved the merger late Wednesday, said four people close to the situation.

The carrier keeps the American Airlines name but will be run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker. American’s CEO, Tom Horton, will become chairman of the new company, these people said. They requested anonymity because the merger negotiations were private.

A formal announcement is expected this morning.

The deal has been in the works since August, when creditors forced American to consider a merger rather than remain independent. American has been restructuring under bankruptcy protection since late 2011.

Activists protesting pipeline arrested at White House

WASHINGTON – Celebrities and environmental activists, including lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and civil-rights leader Julian Bond, were arrested Wednesday after tying themselves to the White House gate to protest the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune also was arrested – the first time in the group’s 120-year history that a club leader was arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The club’s board of directors approved the action as a sign of its opposition to the $7 billion pipeline, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Activist Bill McKibben, actress Daryl Hannah and NASA climate scientist James Hansen also were arrested, along with more than 40 others. They were charged with failure to disperse and obey lawful orders, and released on $100 bond each.

The protesters are demanding that President Barack Obama reject the pipeline, which they say would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming. They also worry about a spill.

Carnival cancels 12 cruises on troubled oceanliner

HOUSTON – Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company’s announcement on Wednesday came as the Triumph was being towed to a port in Mobile, Ala., with more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have complained to relatives that conditions on the ship are dismal and that they have limited access to food and bathrooms.

The ship will be idle through April. Two other cruises were called off shortly after Sunday’s fire.

N. Korea nuke test may offer an intelligence windfall

TOKYO – North Korea’s underground nuclear test shows it is making big strides toward becoming a true nuclear power. But the test may also reveal key clues the secretive nation might have hoped to hide about how close, or how far away, it is from fielding a nuclear weapon capable of striking the United States or its allies.

Hoping to capitalize on a rare opportunity to gauge North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, intelligence and military officials around the region are scrambling to glean data to answer three big questions: how powerful was the device Pyongyang tested, what sort of device was it and what progress does the test indicate the nation has made?

North Korea hailed Tuesday’s test as a “perfect” success, saying it used a device that was stronger and more advanced than those in its last two attempts.

The main thing intelligence officials want to figure out is what kind of device was used. Was it a plutonium bomb, like the ones it tested in 2006 and 2009, or one that used highly enriched uranium?

Associated Press