Mexico journalist 12th killed in '09

MEXICO CITY - A journalist was gunned down this week as he left a holiday party in the Mexican Caribbean resort town of Tulum, human-rights officials and the Committee to Protect Journalists said yesterday, bringing to 12 the number of reporters killed this year in the country.

Alberto Velazquez, who worked for the newspaper Expresiones de Tulum, was killed Tuesday.

According to the CPJ, Velazquez had written articles critical of local officials, and his paper had received threats. The committee quoted colleagues as saying that Velazquez was shot by a gunman on a motorcycle, and they believed the shooting was related to his reporting.

The CPJ said at least 17 reporters since 1992 had been slain in Mexico in direct reprisal for their work. - AP

2 Ireland bishops apologize, resign

DUBLIN, Ireland - Two Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland resigned on Christmas Day in the wake of a damning investigation into decades of church cover-up of child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese.

Dublin Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field offered an apology to child-abuse victims as they announced their resignations during Christmas Mass. Priests read the statement to worshippers throughout the archdiocese, home to a quarter of Ireland's four million Catholics.

Earlier this month, two other bishops, Donal Murray of Limerick and Jim Moriarty of Kildare, quit after the Nov. 26 publication of a three-year investigation into why so many abusive Dublin priests escaped justice for so long.

The government-ordered investigation found that Dublin church leaders spent decades shielding more than 170 pedophile priests from the law. - AP

Queen, in speech, praises soldiers

LONDON - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II paid tribute to her country's troops fighting in Afghanistan in her annual Christmas speech broadcast yesterday, praising their work while expressing her sadness at the casualties.

Her message came at the end of a year in which 106 British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. 2009 has been the bloodiest year for the British military since the war started eight years ago, and public support for the U.S.-led campaign has waned as the death toll mounts.

As the queen, 83, spoke in an address prerecorded at Buckingham Palace, the broadcast showed footage of a procession of hearses carrying the war dead slowly through streets lined with mourners in an English town.

"The debt of gratitude owed to these young men and women, and to their predecessors, is indeed profound," she said. - AP

Elsewhere:

Libya accused Swiss authorities yesterday of using excessive force during the July 2008 arrest of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son in Switzerland, deepening a diplomatic standoff between the countries. There was no immediate reaction from Switzerland.

Russian officials said that the death toll from a Dec. 5 nightclub fire in the Urals city of Perm had risen to 152.