Around the World: January 15, 2015

Here's what's happening across the United States and around the world today.

FBI arrests 20-year-old Ohio man who wanted to 'wage jihad' on US, plotted attack on Capitol

CINCINNATI (AP) — A 20-year-old Ohio man's Twitter posts sympathizing with Islamic terrorists led to an undercover FBI operation and the man's arrest on charges that he plotted to blow up the U.S. Capitol and kill government officials.

Christopher Lee Cornell, also known as Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, told an FBI informant they should "wage jihad," and showed his plans for bombing the Capitol and shooting people, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Ohio Wednesday. The FBI said Cornell expressed his support for the Islamic State.

Cornell's arrest came only days after a grand jury indictment charged another Cincinnati-area resident with threatening to murder House Speaker John Boehner.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement Wednesday: "Once again, the entire Congress owes a debt of gratitude to the FBI and all those who keep us safe."

The complaint against Cornell charges him with attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States.

Analysts worry that terrorist attacks like those in Paris will remain difficult to detect

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. and French intelligence officials are leaning toward an assessment that the Paris terror attacks were inspired by al-Qaida but not directly supervised by the group, a view that would put the violence in a category of homegrown incidents that are extremely difficult to detect and thwart.

Although one of the two brothers who carried out the attack at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper is believed to have traveled briefly to Yemen in 2011, where he met an al-Qaida leader, U.S.

Intelligence officials are not convinced that the Paris attacks were directed from abroad, despite a claim of responsibility by al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate. The claim seems hastily put together and "opportunistic," as two senior officials put it, one French and the other American, both declining to be named in order to discuss sensitive intelligence.

Investigators also are not convinced that Amedy Coulibaly, who killed five people in Paris in separate incidents, coordinated in advance with Cherif and Said Kouachi, who killed 12 in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper.

If those assessments hold, they would place the attacks on a continuum of violence by disaffected individuals who have become sympathetic to al-Qaida, the Islamic State group or their ilk — yet are not involved in the sort of international conspiracy that lends itself to relatively easy detection.

The links to al-Qaida run a gamut, analysts say, from the disturbed Muslim convert in Oklahoma who beheaded a former co-worker at a meat packing plant in September, to the ideologically committed brothers in Paris who attacked the satirical newspaper. The Oklahoma man had no connection to any terror group, while the Kouachi brothers are believed to have consulted with al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen.

Pope arrives in Philippines, where excited crowds await first papal visit in 20 years

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Pope Francis arrived on Thursday in the Philippines, Asia's most populous Catholic nation, where ecstatic crowds awaited the first papal visit in 20 years.

Church bells tolled across the country and hundreds of children danced and waved small Philippine and Vatican flags as the pontiff emerged from the plane and was welcomed by well-wishers led by President Benigno Aquino III. A sudden gust of wind blew off his papal cap seconds after he appeared, and Francis grabbed futility for it and then smiled and descended the stairs.

The government has declared national holidays during the pope's visit, which runs through Monday. He will be in the capital of Manila and fly Saturday to eastern Leyte province, where he plans to meet survivors of Typhoon Haiyan that left thousands of people dead in 2013.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, said he hoped the visit by Francis, the first Latin American head of the 1.2 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church, would be festive and spiritually uplifting and nurture compassion at a time when the country is still recovering from recent deadly disasters, including Haiyan.

"It's like a big, big, big, big national fiesta," a beaming Tagle said in an interview on the eve of the pope's arrival. The visit, he said, "comes at that point when people would really be helped by a moral and spiritual boost coming from someone who really cares."

POPE WATCH: Where's my cap? Windy arrival for Pope Francis in Philippines
Pope Francis has landed in the Philippines, home to Asia's largest Catholic population, following a visit to Sri Lanka. Here are some glimpses of his trip as it unfolds:


On the tarmac in Manila, as the papal aircraft approached, the choreography was formidable. Flags waved in unison. Huge groups of faithful sang along to a pop song written just for Pope Francis' visit. Everything was scripted just so.

Except for the hat. The pope's hat.

Iraq's fight against IS draws its top Shiite cleric into key political role

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) — Since Sunni militants of the Islamic State group overran large parts of Iraq, the country's most prominent Shiite cleric has fundamentally altered his spiritual role and has plunged straight into politics, weighing in on government policy and the fight against the extremists.

The shift by the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani underlines the key role played by religion in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and takes the troubled country down a potentially dangerous path, given its deep sectarian and ethnic tensions. His role falls well short of Iranian-style theocracy, in which the top cleric has the final word on everything, but Iraq's government clearly feels it must listen to him.

Al-Sistani saw it as a necessity to step in with his moral authority given the failures of politicians and the collapse of the military when the Islamic State group overran much of the north and west last summer, an aide said.

"It is his legitimate right, but he did not seek to exercise it. It was forced upon him," the aide in the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. "People wait from one Friday to the next to hear what Sayed al-Sistani has to say."

But Alireza Nader, senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, said that even if it is seen as necessary, "heavy intervention by the clergy means that Iraq's government is not going to be secular any time soon, although not theocratic either. But perhaps something in between."

Mexico will issue birth certificates to citizens at US consulates, seeking to help them get ID

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The Mexican government on Thursday will start issuing birth certificates to its citizens at consulates in the United States, seeking to make it easier for them to apply for U.S. work permits, driver's licenses and protection from deportation.

Until now, Mexico has required citizens to get birth certificates at government offices in Mexico. Many of those living in the U.S. ask friends and relatives back home to retrieve them, which can delay their applications for immigration or other programs.

Now, even as Republicans in Congress try to quash President Barack Obama's reprieve to millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S., Mexico is trying to help them apply for programs that would allow them to remain temporarily in the country and continue sending money back to relatives across the border.

"It is a huge help. It helps individuals really begin to formulate their formal identity in this country," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

About half of the 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally are from Mexico, and immigration experts estimate that roughly 3 million Mexicans could be eligible to apply for work permits and protection from deportation under the administration's plan.

Oklahoma to resume lethal injections after 9-month delay; plans to use same method as Florida

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — After a nearly nine-month delay prompted by a botched lethal injection last spring, Oklahoma plans to execute a death row inmate Thursday with the same three-drug method Florida intends to use about an hour earlier.

Oklahoma prison officials ordered new medical equipment, more extensive training for staff and renovated the execution chamber inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to prevent the kind of problems that arose during the execution of Clayton Lockett in April. Lockett writhed on the gurney, moaned and tried to lift his head after he'd been declared unconscious, prompting prison officials to try to halt his execution before he died.

Attorneys for the state say a failed intravenous line and a lack of training led to the problems with Lockett's injection, not the drugs.

Both Oklahoma and Florida plan to start the executions with the sedative midazolam, which has been challenged in court as ineffective in rendering a person properly unconscious before the second and third drugs are administered, creating a risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Charles Frederick Warner, the 47-year-old Oklahoma inmate scheduled to die Thursday, and three other Oklahoma death row inmates have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to stop their executions.

French president: French Muslims should be respected and respect nation's secular values

PARIS (AP) — President Francois Hollande says France's millions of Muslims should be protected and respected and in turn they should also respect the nation's strict secular policies.

Hollande spoke Thursday after three radical Muslim gunmen killed 17 people last week in France's worst attacks in decades. Two of the attackers claimed allegiances to al-Qaida in Yemen and another to the Islamic State group.

The terror attacks have prompted scattered retaliatory attacks on Muslim sites around France and have put many French Muslims on the defensive.

Hollande said that "anti-Muslim acts, like anti-Semitism, should not just be denounced but severely punished."

Box-office hits seem assured of a snub in Thursday morning's Oscar nominations

Unless David Fincher's "Gone Girl" or Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar" unexpectedly crash the party, the most certain thing absent at Thursday's Oscar nominations will be major box-office hits.

When the nominations to the 87th annual Academy Awards are unveiled at 8:30 a.m. EST from the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif., none of the expected best-picture candidates will have grossed $100 million. Presenters Chris Pine, J.J. Abrams, Alfonso Cuaron and motion picture academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs will announce all 24 categories in a press conference streamed live on http://www.oscars.orgwww.oscars.org and broadcast on ABC's "Good Morning America."

This year's modestly sized but much-beloved favorites — "Boyhood," ''Birdman" — have been largely locked in place throughout much of Hollywood's ever-expanding awards season, where statuette-hunting campaigns span months and are feverishly chewed over by Oscar prognosticators. As studios have focused more and more on easily marketed blockbusters, Oscar season increasingly exists apart from the regular business of the movies, in its own hifalutin, red-carpeted realm.

Among the things to look for Thursday will be the fate of the late-chargers of this season: "Selma" and "American Sniper," both of which are only now hitting theaters nationwide.

Guild awards have been particularly tough on Ava DuVernay's "Selma." Though acclaimed by critics and energized by contemporary relevance, the civil-rights drama has been subjected to scrutiny for its Lyndon Johnson portrayal. Many were surprised by its absence in nominees by the acting, directing and producing guilds, which many have attributed to the movie's late arrival and lack of available DVD screeners for the guilds.

2 Americans complete world's hardest rock climb, conquer sheer wall of Yosemite's El Capitan

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — American rock climber Tommy Caldwell was first to pull himself atop the ledge of the 3,000-foot vertical wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in the glow of the afternoon sun, followed minutes later by Kevin Jorgeson.

The two longtime friends embraced, and then Jorgeson pumped his arm in the air and clapped his hands above his head. Years of practice, failed attempts and the last 19 grueling days scaling by their fingertips culminated at last in success.

"That's a deep, abiding, lifelong friendship, built over suffering on the wall together over six years," said Caldwell's mother, Terry, among some 200 people thousands of miles below in the valley floor who broke into cheers.

She said her son could have reached the top several days ago, but he waited for his friend to make sure they made it together.

The pair on Wednesday completed what had long been considered the world's most difficult rock climb, captivating the nation and world through social media, livestreamed video coverage while documentary filmmakers dangled from ropes capturing each move.

That's what's happening. Read more stories to jump start your day in our special Breakfast Buzz section.

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