Italian police catch fugitive mafia member

REGGIO CALABRIA, Italy, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Italian police caught a fugitive member of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta Mafia Friday.

Antonio Franze, 32, had been on the run since he was charged with international drug trafficking last month, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Police found Franze hiding in the home of an uncle in Gioia Tauro, Europe’s second largest container port where ‘Ndrangheta is known to be very active.

The Calabrian Mafia is Italy’s most wealthy because of its domination of the European cocaine trade.

Israeli army chief says Iran region threat

BE’ER TUVIA, Israel, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Israeli army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Friday Iran poses a threat not only to Israel but to the entire Mideast region and beyond.

Speaking to high school students in Be’er Tuvia, Gantz said the Iranian threat can be overcome through domestic and international preparation but did not elaborate, Ynetnews reported.

“With proper international and Israeli preparations, this challenge can be met, and [allow us] to stay here as to fulfill the Zionist dream for dozens and hundreds of years to come,” he said.

Gantz said Iran is working toward a nuclear weapons program that “warrants concern,” adding, “Israel is the only country in the world which is under a threat of annihilation by a country working to that end, but the threat is not only on Israel but the entire region and other parts of the world.”

His comments came less than a week after Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi warned Israel should not attack Iran unless it “wants to commit suicide.”

Jamaicans elect Miller-Simpson as PM

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Dec. 30 (UPI) — The People’s National Party cruised to victory in Jamaica’s elections, electing Portia Simpson-Miller as prime minister and picking up 41 parliamentary seats.

Simpson-Miller, who returns as prime minister after being ousted by a Jamaica Labor Party win in 2007, extended an the olive branch after what has been a vigorous campaign, the Jamaica Observer reported Friday.

“We will be working to move this country forward to achieve growth and development and for job creation,” she said Thursday. “As we move to balance the books, we will be moving to balance people’s lives.”

She defeated Andrew Holness, who became prime minister when Bruce Golding resigned in October.

The Jamaica Labor Party won 22 legislative seats.

In his concession speech, Holness said, “The people have spoken and we are humble servants and we listen.”

Voting went smoothly, despite long lines at some polling stations, glitches in the electronic voter identification system and low voter turnout, the Observer said.

The Electoral Office said voter turnout was 48 percent.

U.S. won’t dictate to Iraq

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Washington has no intention of getting in the middle of the political turmoil gripping a post-war Iraq, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said.

Iraqi lawmakers are trading barbs following the end of the U.S. military engagement there. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants the country’s vice president arrested on terrorism charges, a move that his adversaries say is pushing the country toward civil war.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said Washington was encouraging Iraqi political blocs to address differences at the negotiating table.

Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose supporters have key positions in the Iraqi government, called for new elections though others have said dialogue is the best course of action.

Nuland said that apart from encouraging political talks between rival groups in Iraq, the issue was largely an Iraqi matter they need to settle internally.

“I think we’re not going to get into the middle of this and dictate one way or the other,” she said. “Clearly, the Iraqi political groups need to sit down together and work this through in a manner that is consistent with Iraq’s constitution and their commitments to each other.”

Canadian investor mulls women-only taxis

SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick, Dec. 30 (UPI) — A Canadian entrepreneur says he thinks women in Saint John, New Brunswick, would take to taxis with female drivers, particularly Muslim customers.

Dave Barnes told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. he was doing market research in the city based on reported successes in Europe in which some female drivers would only accept female passengers.

The city has a metropolitan population of about 122,000 and Barnes said he believes it would support as many as six female-only taxis based on what women have told him.

“They’ve all had stories about getting into taxis and having an, ‘Oh my God’ moment as soon as they close the door,” he said, adding he wasn’t being disrespectful to all male drivers.

“But there are guys out there that probably shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” Barnes told the CBC.

He said his research shows in undisclosed European cities with growing Muslim populations, as in Saint John, the concept was being well received.

“I think that’s a target market for me here,” he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms would permit such female-only service.

Tymoshenko sent to penal colony

KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Decisions regarding the fate of jailed Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko raise serious questions about the rule of law, London said.

Minister for Europe David Lidington said a decision by a court of appeals in Kiev upholding the seven-year prison sentence for Tymoshenko was an assault to justice. The trial, he said, was “subject to numerous and serious violations of legal principles.”

Tymoshenko, a leader of the country’s Orange Revolution in 2004, was charged with abusing her authority in a 2009 deal with Russian energy company Gazprom.

Tymoshenko was transferred Friday to the Kachanovskaya penal colony, Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti reports.

Media reports suggested she was transferred from her former cell in a wheelchair, though the Russian report said prison doctors said her health wouldn’t affect her ability to move from Kiev.

Her Western allies say the charges filed against her are part of a political ruse by the pro-Kremlin government of Viktor Yanukovych, a charge his administration denies.

Tymoshenko lost a bruising fight for president to Yanukovych in 2010.

Security high for Times Square ball drop

NEW YORK, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Security will be tight in New York’s Times Square this weekend as crowds fill the streets to welcome the New Year, police officials said.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said he plans to deploy thousands of resources, including 35 mounted horses, bomb-sniffing dogs, and uniformed as well as plainclothes officers on Saturday, CNN reported.

“We operate under the assumption that we’re at the top of the terrorist target list, and we’ve had 14 attempts at terrorist-type attacks,” the commissioner said.

Revelers must pass through a security checkpoint system before entering Times Square, authorities said. Checkpoints will be positioned at each of the 16 entrances to the site, and cameras and helicopters will blanket the square as celebrants watch the glitzy ball drop to signal the new year.

The Joint Operations Center “will be activated, where we have representatives from units throughout the department, and federal, state and local agencies,” Kelly said, “so you can get face-to-face coordination, which is a very important aspect of what we do.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to watch the ball drop, Times Square’s official Web site said.

“I think it’s something you have to do at least once,” Kelly said. “It’s sort of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a happy event. It’s an exciting event.”

Sept. 11 museum delayed by budget dispute

NEW YORK, Dec. 30 (UPI) — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says work on the National September 11 Memorial Museum is at a standstill because of a budget dispute..

Bloomberg said a budgetary dispute between the city and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has delayed the museum project, which was scheduled to be completed in time for the 11th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, CNN reported.

“There’s no chance of it being open on time. Work has basically stopped,” Bloomberg was quoted as saying Thursday. “We have a legitimate claim against the port authority for delays for roughly $140 million, which has increased our cost.”

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation announced Thursday that more than a million people have visited the memorial plaza at the site since it opened in September.

Turkey regrets deadly border strike

ANKARA, Turkey, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Turkish officials expressed regret over airstrikes along the southern border that left 35 villagers dead in a raid that targeted Kurdish rebels.

Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, said those killed in the airstrikes this week were cigarette smugglers, not militants with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

He said the attack followed information collected with surveillance drones that indicated Kurdish militant activity in the area. Celik said the government was investigating the incident, adding Ankara was saddened by the loss of life, Turkey’s daily newspaper Today’s Zaman reports.

Leaders from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party described the attack as a “massacre,” equating Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the Syrian president.

Kurdish groups note that villagers living along the southern border with Iraq rely on smuggling for much of their income.

Celik added that intelligence errors were likely behind the attack, noting the government wouldn’t coverup any wrongdoings.

The military expressed condolences for those killed in the attack.

“We wish God’s mercy upon our citizens who lost their lives in the incident that took place on the night of Dec. 28, 2011, and we also convey our condolences to their families,” the statement read.

Nigerian group plans response to violence

ABUJA, Nigeria, Dec. 30 (UPI) — A Christian leader in Nigeria said Christians may have to defend themselves against the militant Boko Haram because of an inadequate response by the government.

The Christian Association of Nigeria met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to express concerns about church bombings by Boko Haram on Christmas Day, criticizing the government’s response, the Voice of America reported Thursday.

“After consultation with the Christian community, which constitutes the majority of the Nigerian population, I have been mandated to convey as follows: The Christian community in Nigeria is deeply sorrowed over the deteriorating state of insecurity and apparent inability of the government to protect and guarantee lives, churches and properties of our members,” Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor said after his meeting Wednesday with Jonathan, who is Christian.

Boko Haram, blamed for hundreds of deaths in 2011, wants to establish a strict Islamic state in Nigeria, a country nearly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

The lack of a government response left Nigeria’s Christian community “with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on our members, churches or properties,” Oritsejafor said.

Jonathan said terrorism was a new experience for Nigeria and that the government is working to confront it.

“When we work together, we will get over it,” Jonathan said when calling for assistance from all Nigerians, Christian and Muslim alike. “The terrorists are human beings, they are not spirits. … [as] long as Nigerians are committed to exposing them, we’ll get over this ugly situation.”

Nigeria’s top Muslim spiritual leader, Sa’ad Abubakar, also condemned the attacks.

“I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, or between Islam and Christianity,” Abubakar said. “There is a conflict between evil people and good people.”

N. Korea says no policy changes under Kim

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Policies of North Korea won’t change under its new leader Kim Jong Un, who also vowed not to deal with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, officials said.

The announcement Friday by the National Defense Commission was the country’s first official statement since Kim was recognized as North Korea’s leader Thursday, The New York Times reported. His elevation came a day after the state funeral of his father, Kim Jong Il.

“We declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should not expect any change from us,” the commission said in a statement. “We will never deal with the traitor group of Lee Myung-bak.”

Besides lashing out at Lee, whose government refused to express official condolences to North Korea and allowed only two private delegations to attend the elder Kim’s funeral, the statement criticized South Korea’s decision to place its military on heightened alert and South Korean activists’ launching balloons with leaflets into North Korea, the Times said.

“By taking a confrontational stance with the external world, North Korea seeks to solidify its internal cohesion as it tries to establish Kim Jong Un as leader,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul. “At the same time, it is pressuring the South to change its policy.”

Despite the anti-Lee rhetoric, the commission kept open the prospect of improved relations with South Korea in the future, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

South Korea’s presidential elections will be in December 2012. Lee’s five-year term ends in February 2013 and he is barred by law from seeking re-election.

“The army and people of [North Korea] will keep to the path of improving North-South relations and achieving peace and prosperity,” the statement said.

U.S.: Statements from Chavez ‘horrific’

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Statements from the Venezuelan president suggesting the United States was infecting Latin American leaders with cancer are “horrific,” an official said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had a tumor removed in June, said he wondered whether the rise in cancer diagnoses among leftist Latin American leaders was part of a U.S. plot. He maintained his speculation wasn’t an accusation, however.

Nevertheless, Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said the Venezuelan president’s statements were regrettable.

“With regard to the Chavez statements, let me simply say that they are horrific and reprehensible,” she said.

In addition to the cancer diagnosis for Chavez who has been treated in Cuba, this week it was revealed that Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had thyroid cancer.

Chavez next month is expected to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as part of a broad tour of Latin American countries.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R.-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, described Ahmadinejad’s itinerary as a “tour of tyrants.” She said his visit was a direct threat to U.S. national security interests.

Nuland said only she hoped Latin American leaders would follow the direction of the international community in regards to Iran.

“Our hope and expectation is that these (countries) will increase the pressure on Iran,” she said.

Clashes erupt as Arab League visits Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Activists and Syrian forces clashed in after-prayer protests in the Damascus area, with troops firing nail bombs to disperse protesters, activists said Friday.

Meanwhile, Arab League monitors carried on their mission of observing whether the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government was honoring its pledge to end its violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, the BBC reported.

Protest organizers had called for the demonstrations in the Damascus suburb of Douma and elsewhere, saying up to 40 people across Syria were killed Thursday by troops while waiting for the Arab League team.

Opposition leaders said eight bodies were recovered Friday, although the BBC said independent verification of such information was difficult because of government restrictions placed on foreign journalists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 20 protesters were injured when troops fired nail bombs and tear gas to disperse protesters marching toward City Hall.

The Arab League peace plan calls for an end to the violence, withdrawal of armed forces and the release of all detainees.

One activist in Douma said protesters gathered early Thursday to greet what they thought was a busload of observers, but saw security forces instead, The New York Times reported.

“We lost six people, the price of seeing this cursed mission,” the activist said. “Their presence has raised the killing, in fact.”

The mission has drawn criticism from the activists, including Syrian dissident Haytham Manna, who called for the delegation’s leader to be replaced or have his powers reduced. Activists have complained that Sudanese Lt. Gen. Muhammed al-Dabi is unsuitable because he has been accused of committing atrocities in Sudan.

Reports of violence prompted Britain’s Foreign Office Friday to say Friday it welcomed news that the Arab League planned to increase the number of observers in Syria, CNN reported. An Arab League official said 75 monitors were already in Syria and more were expected to arrive in the coming days.

“Unfortunately, reports show that the violence has continued in Syria over the past few days,” Alistair Burth, the Foreign Office’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement. “I urge the Syrian government to meet fully its obligations to the Arab League, including immediately ending the repression and withdrawing security forces from cities. The Syrian government must allow the Arab League mission independent and unrestricted access to all areas of Syria and to the Syrian people.”

Al-Qaida building network in eastern Libya

TRIPOLI, Libya, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Al-Qaida leaders are mobilizing forces in eastern Libya, a source told CNN.

The source said al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri dispatched a veteran fighter to Libya in May to recruit fighters in the region near the Egyptian border.

He is believed to have mobilized some 200 people to join al-Qaida’s efforts, CNN said Friday.

Western intelligence agencies have been concerned for some time about the potential for Islamist extremists to gain a foothold in Libya after the fall of former leader Moammar Gadhafi. CNN said militant groups have long been present in eastern Libya, although they were suppressed by Gadhafi’s regime.

Teen among caucus protesters arrested

DES MOINES, Iowa, Dec. 30 (UPI) — A dozen Occupy the Caucus protesters, including a teen, were arrested in Des Moines, Iowa, for blocking the state’s Democratic Party headquarters, police said.

State Democratic Party officials said the protests were more confrontational Thursday than earlier in the week, The New York Times reported.

Norm Sterzenbach, the Iowa Democratic Party executive director, said protesters were trampling on flower beds in front of the building and said they exhibited “threatening behavior” by barricading the doors.

“They moved this to a different level,” Sterzenbach said, comparing it to an earlier protest that week.

“I’m not going to have my people stuck in there,” party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said, explaining she tried to reason with the protesters before police arrived.

Police arrested but did not detain 14-year-old Frankie Hughes, who held a sign saying she was “a child whose voice is not heard.” Hughes told the Times she had been arrested several times before, including once at the state Capitol.

Organizers said demonstrators planned to rally in front of Republican candidates’ offices Friday, focusing on corporate money in politics, the Des Moines Register reported.

The Iowa caucuses are Tuesday.

Tymoshenko moved to penal colony

KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was transferred to a prison in the country’s Kharkov region, prison officials said Friday.

Tymoshenko, convicted of abuse of office for overstepping her role as prime minister in agreeing to gas contracts with Russia, was taken to Kachanvskaya Penal Colony to serve a seven-year prison sentence. Her conviction was upheld last week by the Kiev Court of Appeal.

The 51-year-old opposition leader, who helped lead the 2004 Orange Revolution, insists she is the victim of a political conspiracy, RIA Novosti reported.

Pyongyang: Business as usual in new year

SEOUL, Dec. 30 (UPI) — North Korea has hit out at South Korea’s president and other “foolish politicians” if they think Pyongyang will change after the death of leader Kim Jong Il.

The message, attributed by North Korea’s state media to the powerful National Defense Committee, comes only a day after Kim Jong Il’s youngest son Kim Jong Un was described for the first time as “The Great Leader.”

“We declare solemnly and confidently that the foolish politicians around the world, including the puppet group in South Korea, should not expect any change from us,” the NDC was quoted as saying.

Intense international speculation has surrounded the rapid rise to power of Kim Jong Un, of whom little is known. Even his exact age — believed to be 27 or 28 — is unclear.

His father, who had been chairman of the NDC, ruled the North with an iron fist since the death of his own father, Kim Il Sung, in 1994. But Kim Jong Il’s death of a heart attack Dec. 17 has made nervous many Asia-Pacific countries, as well as Western powers including the United States.

In the past decade South Korea gone on high alert after several unprovoked, brief but limited military attacks which has cost dozens of lives south of the 1953 cease-fire line.

The nervousness is especially acute because North Korea has conducted nuclear weapons tests. Any normalization of relations with the wider international community is bound up with neutralizing its suspected capability to produce nuclear weapons. The six-nation denuclearization talks between North and South Korea, China, United State, Russia and Japan have been stalled for months.

But the latest message from the NDC reiterated Pyongyang’s hard-line stance against the international community in general and in particular South Korea, saying it is business as usual.

This week the North Korean government ended the official period of mourning with a national memorial service for Kim Jong Il. Rhousands of soldiers and people crowded Pyongyang’s main square for the ceremonies.

At center stage was Kim Jong Un, who received the backing of the military’s main leaders, the “Gang of Seven,” a report in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said. Along with Kim Jong Un, they walked alongside the hearse carrying the body of Kim Jong Il, a public declaration that they stand behind their young leader, the report said.

Kim Jong Un’s family connections to the military and other powerful bodies run deep. His uncle Jang Song Taek, is an influential figure in the Workers Party and spent a long time in the party’s Organization and Guidance Department, which plays the role of a commissariat.

Although Kim Jong Un has little military background, his two dead older brothers were generals — Kim Song U died in 2009 and Kim Song Gil died in 2006.

As the year closes, diplomatic activity in the region is set to intensify as countries come to grips with what the change in leadership means in reality, rather than party political rhetoric. Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the U.S. State Department, will visit Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo in early January.

Even China, Pyongyang’s ardent backer since the 1953 armistice that split the Korean Peninsula, will have questions to ask of the new “Great Leader.”

Millions of people starved to death during the first four years of Kim Jong Il’s rule starting in 1994, an editorial in Chosun Ilbo said. Hundreds of thousands fled North Korea in search of food and jobs.

The editorial points to the “miserable legacy” of Kim Jong Il as being one of hunger for the population in what is one of world’s poorest nations but with a suspected nuclear weapons capability.

China, which began liberalizing its economy in the late 1970s and is a world economic power, may lose patience with its small isolationist ally. “Kim Jong Il marched blithely in the opposite direction,” the editorial noted.

“At this moment, China might provide the best chance of stability,” Robert Carlin, a former U.S. State Department official and fellow at Stanford University, said in a New York Times report earlier this month.

“They want to be the best informed and have a modicum of influence and have people consulting with them at this moment,” Carlin said. “The rest of us are deaf, dumb, blind and with our arms tied behind our backs.”

Apart from helping prop up a failing North Korean economy, China has had to back its ally in face of heavy international criticism over unprovoked attacks on the South. The Times’ article noted that Chinese officials have pushed North Korea’s generals to show more prudence to ensure no repeat of the sudden shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island last year.

Also last year, China was put in an awkward position when South Korea accused North Korea of sinking the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, with loss of 46 sailors.

An international investigation pointed the finger at Pyongyang for the sinking, which it denied. But the episode underlined China’s limited patience.

Dry-docked submarine fire extinguished

MOSCOW, Dec. 30 (UPI) — A fire that broke out on a Russian nuclear submarine in dry dock has been extinguished, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.

Officials said the Yekaterinburg Delta class sub caught fire Thursday while undergoing repairs at a shipyard in the Murmansk region, RIA Novosti reported.

No deaths were reported, but police said nine people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an investigation into the incident.

A Northern Fleet spokesman had said scaffolding around the submarine caught fire, which spread to the sub’s outer hull.

Nuclear reactors had been shut down and weapons removed before the repairs began, officials said.

A source in the Russian navy said the submarine could be back in operation within a year, if funding is adequate, ITAR-Tass reported.

“If necessary allocations are made the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine can be overhauled and put into service again within 2012. The submarine equipment and structure were not damaged in the fire,” the source said.

Samoa, Tokelau cross the line, skip Friday

APIA, Samoa, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Time leaped forward for the island nation of Samoa and New Zealand-administered Tokelau, which skipped Friday to align with their regional trading partners.

At midnight, the islands’ time zone shifted west of the International Date Line, reversing 120 years of being east of the marker, Voice of America reported Friday.

Officials said the change corrects a calendar issue that had Samoa on Sunday while its trading partners were working on Monday. Similarly, when Samoa was conducting business on Friday, its trading partners were enjoying time off on Saturday.

One official said the shift made it easier for Samoa to do business with New Zealand, Australia, Japan and China.

The current time zone was agreed to in 1892 so the island nation could work with American traders based in California, Voice of America said. However, the country now does not do as much trading with the United States as it does with other countries.

The International Date Line is a north-south imaginary line that designates the place where each calendar day begins.

Most Canadian paramedics report job abuse

TORONTO, Dec. 30 (UPI) — More than 67 percent of Canadian paramedics in Ontario and Nova Scotia say they have been subjected to some form of abuse on the job, a survey showed Friday.

A survey of 1,381 paramedics in the two provinces between January and June, by a researcher at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, found verbal abuse was the most common issue, with two-thirds of that coming from patients.

The study asked the Emergency Medical Service workers about incidents within the past 12 months, the Globe and Mail said.

Of the respondents, 26.1 percent reported being physically abused, almost all by patients who punched, kicked, stabbed or spit on them, Postmedia News said.

Lead researcher Blair Bigham, an advanced care flight paramedic, told the Globe he wasn’t surprised at the results, based on his own experiences, but the cumulative numbers were considerable.

“When you span that out over a 20- or 30-year career, we’re looking at a lot of [violent] events happening with these paramedics,” he said.

The study was the first of its kind and show similarities to others done in Australia, Sweden and the United States, he said.

It will be published in January’s Prehospital Emergency Care journal.

DoD reliance on contractors widens

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Hundreds of contractors work in U.S. intelligence and military operations because there aren’t enough uniformed personnel for the job, military officials said.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday U.S. drone operations require so much staffing, civilians have been performing operational functions in the launch of Hellfire missiles, and for-profit corporations have been brought into some of the most sensitive military and intelligence matters.

Citing current and former officers, private employees and government documents, the newspaper said it takes more personnel to operate an unmanned drone than to fly a conventional warplane. The Air Force does not have enough ground-based crew to fly the drones, analyze video and surveillance data, or maintain the aircraft, the newspaper said.

“Our No. 1 manning problem in the Air Force is manning our unmanned platforms,” Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Air Force vice chief of staff, said.

The Air Force says it requires 168 people to keep a Predator drone flying for 24 hours, while the Global Hawk — a surveillance drone that is larger than the Predator — requires 300. It takes fewer than 100 people for one F-16 fighter aircraft mission, the report said.

The United States has 230 Predators, Reapers and Global Hawks, and the Air Force runs more than 50 drones daily over Afghanistan and what the newspaper called other target areas. Plans call for acquiring 730 medium and large drones in the next decade, the Times said.

The Air Force has stepped up training of drone pilots in an effort to meet the demand, the newspaper said.

Budget woes may mute Jubilee celebrations

LONDON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — English local governments are planning muted celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee because of budget problems, a survey says.

Republic, a group advocating for abolition of the monarchy, queried more than 250 local councils on how much they plan to spend and what they plan to do, The Guardian reported. Planting trees in the queen’s honor and renaming playing fields after her appear to be popular choices.

In Bradford, the municipal council said its Jubilee activities would consist of “(re-branding) existing events.”

The queen is the second British monarch to make it to the 60-year mark. The Diamond Jubilee of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, was celebrated with great festivities in 1897.

Some elaborate displays are being planned, especially in towns with royal ties. London Mayor Boris Johnson said the cost of a 1,000-boat flotilla down the Thames escorting the queen in a golden barge will be covered by private donations.

Graham Smith, a Republic spokesman, said spending money on the Jubilee is inexcusable when services are being cut. He praised local officials “for resisting pressure from the palace and reflecting the mood of the nation, most of whom are not remotely interested in the jubilee.”

Man charged with killing in canal case

LONDON, Dec. 30 (UPI) — A London man has been charged with killing the mother of his children and dumping her body in a canal where it was found on Christmas Day.

Manzar Juma, 27, was scheduled for a court appearance Friday, The Daily Telegraph reported. Investigators said he and Ruby Love, 23, had two children together.

Love’s mother, Precious Love, said she last saw her Christmas Eve. A dog walker found her body in the Grand Union Canal the next morning.

Precious Love said her daughter had been hit on the back of the neck and showed signs of strangulation and of being hit in the face.

Ruby Love was born Rabina Malik. Her name was changed in 2003 after her Sikh family converted to Christianity.

She had three children, the youngest a month-old boy, and worked in her family’s business.

Sarah-Lee Love called her sister “an angel.”

“It was a horrible person who took her from us,” Sarah-Lee said. “She’s a Christian girl and he did it on Christmas Day.”