- - Thursday, January 6, 2011

IRAN

Woman detained on spy charges

TEHRAN | Iranian authorities say they have arrested a 55-year-old American woman — reportedly with a microphone hidden in her teeth — on suspicion of spying. U.S. officials could not immediately confirm the report.

The state-owned newspaper IRAN said the woman — identified in Farsi as Hal Talaian — had “spying equipment or a microphone” concealed in her teeth when customs authorities detained her in the border town of Nordouz, 370 miles northwest of Tehran. The report said she arrived in Iran from neighboring Armenia without a visa.

EGYPT

Officials boost security around churches

CAIRO | Egyptian authorities put up a heavy security cordon early Thursday around the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo hours before Christmas Eve Mass, using bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors and officers to try to prevent another attack like the New Year’s suicide bombing of a church that killed 21 people.

Al Qaeda in Iraq had threatened Christians in Iraq and Egypt in the weeks leading up to the holidays, and militant websites have even posted online lists of churches in Egypt to target with their addresses.

Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, which makes up 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people, celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7.

RUSSIA

Opposition activists detained after protest

MOSCOW | Russian police on Thursday detained dozens of opposition activists after they protested outside a Moscow prison against the arrest of opposition leaders, news agencies reported.

“A dozen militants of the Solidarnost movement were detained,” said Olga Shorina, a spokeswoman for the opposition group of which former first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov is a member.

Left-wing Front leader Sergei Udaltsov put the number of people arrested at nearly 30, but the figure included those who opposed the rally, said Interfax.

Mr. Nemtsov was sentenced to two weeks in prison on Sunday for resisting the police.

VATICAN CITY

Pope says God was behind Big Bang

God’s mind was behind complex scientific theories such as the so-called “Big Bang,” and Christians should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident, Pope Benedict said Thursday.

“The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe,” Benedict said on the day Christians mark the Epiphany, the day the Bible says the three kings reached the site where Jesus was born by following a star.

“Contemplating [the universe], we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the Creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God,” he said in a sermon to an estimated 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica on the feast day.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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