Top news: The French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, whose headquarters were firebombed last year after the weekly ran images of the Prophet Mohammed, stoked controversy again on Wednesday by publishing cartoons showing the prophet naked. The action comes amid protests across the Muslim world over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.
As Jewish and Muslim groups in France condemn the drawings, the French government has announced that it will close French embassies and schools in around 20 countries on Friday as a precautionary measure (Muslim leaders in France will also urge calm in mosques across the country on Friday). "Given this absurd video that has been aired, strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius observed. "Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?" For their part, Charlie Hebdo's editors (including Stephane Charbonnier, pictured above) have defended their right to free speech.
On Wednesday, assailants attacked a kosher supermarket in a Paris suburb, though police have not determined whether the incident was related to the cartoons. Today, Iranian students and clerics protested against the drawings outside the French embassy in Tehran.
Syria: Syrian state television is reporting that a military helicopter crashed near Damascus on Thursday, with activists claiming that rebels brought down the aircraft. The news comes as fighting continues in Aleppo and around the capital, and shortly after U.S. Senator John Kerry suggested that Congress could make aid to Iraq contingent on Baghdad preventing Iran from sending military supplies to Syria over Iraqi territory.
- Wrapping up a visit to Beijing, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta insisted that the United States is not trying to "contain China."
- Opposition parties in India organized a national strike to protest government plans to reduce fuel subsidies and invite multinationals into the retail market.
- Afghan President Hamid Karzai fired the governor of Helmand province.
- Italy's supreme court upheld the convictions of 23 Americans over the 2003 detention of an Egyptian cleric in Milan.
- China's prime minister is meeting with top EU officials in Brussels to discuss trade and the Syrian crisis, as China and the European Union announce a new deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
- A British media regulator has determined that BSkyB is qualified to hold a broadcasting license.
- A report by the Justice Department's inspector general called for disciplinary action against 14 federal officials over the failed gun trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.
- President Obama met with Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after she received the Congressional Gold Medal at the Capitol.
- Colombian officials released new details about the capture of a top drug trafficker in Venezuela.
- Sudan has blocked access to YouTube in response to the anti-Islam film that has sparked protests across the Middle East and North Africa.
- Workers are returning to South Africa's Marikana platinum mine after deadly protests there.
- Senegalese lawmakers abolished the country's senate to save money for flood relief.
- An Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip killed two people, amid conflicting accounts about their identities.
- The autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan reached a deal with Baghdad on oil shipments.
- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy appointed a new intelligence chief.
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