U.S. work-visa scam alleged

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Authorities arrested 11 people yesterday in an alleged U.S. work-visa scam that raked in more than $50 million from thousands of Brazilians since 2002. Some of those scammed went to the United States and wound up as illegal immigrants when promised jobs didn't exist.

Brazilians seeking temporary working visas were charged up to $15,000 in what the U.S. Consulate called one of the largest cases of U.S. visa fraud. Similar schemes were uncovered in Russia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and Romania.

State prosecutor Aline Alves said unidentified U.S.-based immigration lawyers and Brazilian got getting temporary visas authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, then charged Brazilians exorbitant rates to land visas tied to jobs that rarely existed.

- AP

Somalian students protest killings

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Hundreds of students marched in Mogadishu's streets yesterday in the first known protest against Islamic extremists, as Somalia's government warned that extremists are planning suicide attacks against key installations in Mogadishu.

Intelligence information showed that al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, plan to target Mogadishu's airport, seaport, and the presidential palace, police spokesman Abdullahi Hassan Barise said.

The warning comes four days after a suicide bomber attacked a university graduation in Mogadishu, killing 24 people, including three government ministers, medical students, and doctors. The government blamed al-Shabab.

- AP

Tunnel thieves score $6 million

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Thieves who spent months tunneling from a rented house to an armored-car company's safe made off with nearly $6 million over the weekend during season-ending soccer matches, police said yesterday.

The heist was discovered Sunday night, as officers followed the tunnel from the company's safe some 110 yards underground to a house.

Police said the home, abandoned when they arrived, had been occupied for about four months. Its former occupants were considered suspects, but there were no immediate arrests. Officials with the armored-car company told police that $5.9 million was missing.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Eight students in China were killed and 26 injured in a school stampede in the central province of Hunan last night. The students were charging out of evening study sessions at Xiangxiang city's private Yucai Middle School when they began to fall on top of one another in a stampede on the steps.

About 3,000 masked youths in Athens smashed store windows and hurled firebombs at police in a second day of violence marking last year's fatal police shooting of a teenager. The death of Alexis Grigoropoulos, 15, led to some of the worst rioting Greece had ever seen.

Pope Benedict XVI will break with tradition and celebrate Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at 10 p.m. instead of midnight this year, to "ease the [pope's] fatigue," the Vatican said.