Press digest

The following are the top stories in the international press today. National newspapers are not published on Boxing Day.

Official results from Egypt show voters have backed the controversial new constitution supported by President Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Ahram quotes the election commission saying 63.8 per cent of Egyptian voters approved the new constitution, and 36.2 per cent opposed it. Less than a third of Egypt's 52 million eligible voters cast their ballot in the two-stage referendum. The result will enable Egypt to elect a new parliament. The draft constitution prompted mass protests by opponents who argue it has an Islamist agenda.

The commander of Syria’s military police is reported to have defected. Al Arabiya has broadcast “an announcement” by Major General Abulaziz Jassim al-Shalal from the border with Turkey in which he accused President Assad’s regime of using chemical weapons in an attack on Homs on Christmas Eve. He said the Syrian army had deviated from its fundamental mission from protecting the nation and has turned into “gangs of killering and destruction”.

L’Avvenire leads with Pope Benedict’s call for peace in global hotspots, including Syria, in his annual Christmas message to the world. As he stood on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica and addressed thousands of pilgrims below, the pontiff appealed once again for the end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the Syrian conflict. He urged Israelis and the Palestinians to find courage to negotiate a settlement and asked China’s new government to respect religion. He also called for peace in Mali and Nigeria.

ABC News quotes security forces in northern Nigeria saying gunmen have opened fire in a predominant Christian village, killing at least six people. The military spokesman told the BBC that the attackers fired at worshipers at a small local church. One suspected gunman has been detained.

Queen Elizabeth has used her Christmas message to pay tribute to those whose work takes them away from family and friends during the Christmas period. The Daily Mail says that in her annual address, broadcast for the first time in 3D, the queen spoke of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, calling it a humbling experience. "This past year has been one of great celebration for many," she said.

In Newtown, Connecticut, the scene of the second-worst school shooting in US history, churchgoers said they were trying to find healing after the murders of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hawk elementary school on Friday week. Newtown Bee says the town has been in mourning since when 20-year-old Adam Lanza took several weapons into the school and carried out the massacre, after murdering his mother at home. He later took his own life when police arrived at the school.

VOA reports that an former convict who set his house on fire and then ambushed fire-fighters in New York State killing two of them, left a chilling note for authorities. The police in Webster, New York, said William Spengler Jr. composed a rough, typewritten plan that foretold of the destruction to come.  “I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down and do what I like doing best — killing people,” Spengler, 62, wrote, in the note the police recovered. It did not shed any light on what motivated him to do the killings.

The Japanese government has resigned, allowing for a parliamentary vote to install the conservative Shinzu Abe as a prime minister for the second time. Abe, who last served as Japan’s leader in 2007, led his Liberal Democratic Party to victory in elections earlier this month. Bloomberg says he has agreed with his coalition ally Natsuo Yamaguchi of the New Komeito Party on a policy package that includes “bold monetary easing” to reach an inflation target of two per cent.

Radio Farda quotes Iranian revealing they had successfully repelled a new cyber attack on the country's industry. Officials compared it to the "Stuxnet" virus, discovered in 2010, which had dealt a serious blow to Iran's nuclear programme.

The Los Angeles Times announces the death of Emmy-winning actor Jack Klugman, a versatile, raspy-voiced mainstay of US television during the 1970s and early '80s. He was 90. Klugman gained fame for playing slovenly sports writer Oscar Madison pairing with Tony Randall in The Odd Couple – a role he also had played on Broadway – and then as a crusading coroner in the crime drama Quincy. In addition to his TV fame, Klugman enjoyed a healthy career on the stage as well as in movies and made successful forays into horse breeding and political activism.


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