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VATICAN CITY: Pope admonishes U.S. bishops

Pope Benedict XVI said U.S. Roman Catholics need to understand the "grave threats" to their faith posed by what he calls radical secularism in the political and cultural arenas. Addressing visiting U.S. bishops Thursday, he warned that attempts are being made to erode their religious freedom. U.S. bishops have complained that their religious freedom is eroding in the face of growing acceptance of gay marriage and attempts to marginalize faith. Benedict expressed appreciation that bishops have been more outspoken about American Catholic politicians who don't follow church teaching on abortion and other issues. He said Catholics in political life have a "personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith."


PAKISTAN: Al-Qaida figure hit by drone

A senior operations organizer for al-Qaida was killed in one of two U.S. drone strikes launched against targets inside Pakistan last week, a U.S. official said. Aslam Awan, a Pakistani national from Abbottabad, the town where Osama bin Laden was killed last May, was targeted in a strike Jan. 10 directed at a compound near Miranshah in North Waziristan. That strike broke an undeclared eight-week hiatus in attacks by the armed, unmanned drones that are a key weapon in President Barack Obama's counterterrorism strategy. Awan, also known as Abdullah Khorasani, was said to be a significant figure in the remaining core leadership of al-Qaida.


BRITAIN: Apology, cash for hacking

Rupert Murdoch's media empire apologized and agreed to cash payouts Thursday to 37 people, including a movie star, a soccer player, a top politician and the son of a serial killer, who were harassed and phone-hacked by his tabloid press. Jude Law, Ashley Cole, John Prescott and Chris Shipman were among those receiving financial damages from Murdoch's British newspaper company for illegal eavesdropping and other intrusions. News International said it did not admit that senior staff knew of the wrongdoing and tried to cover it up.

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