Nation/World Briefs

Secret Service given 1st female director

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday named veteran Secret Service agent Julia Pierson as the agency’s first female director, signaling his desire to change the culture at the male-dominated service, which has been marred by scandal.

Pierson, who most recently served as the agency’s chief of staff, will take over from Mark Sullivan, who announced his retirement last month. The agency faced intense criticism during Sullivan’s tenure for a prostitution scandal during preparations for Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia, last year.

The incident raised questions within the agency – as well as at the White House and on Capitol Hill – about the culture, particularly during foreign travel. In addition to protecting the president, the Secret Service also investigates financial crimes.

At the Secret Service, Pierson has served as deputy assistant director of the office of protective operations, assistant director of human resources and training and chief of staff. She started in 1983 as a special agent in Miami. Before that, she was a police officer in Orlando, Fla.

N. Korea puts forces at top combat posture

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea’s military warned Tuesday that its artillery and rocket forces are at their highest-level combat posture in the latest in a string of bellicose threats aimed at South Korea and the United States.

The announcement came as South Koreans marked the third anniversary of the sinking of a warship in which 46 South Korean sailors died. Seoul says the ship was hit by a North Korean torpedo, while the North denies involvement.

Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday it hasn’t seen any suspicious North Korean military activity and that officials are analyzing the North’s warning. Analysts say a direct North Korean attack is extremely unlikely, especially during joint U.S.-South Korean military drills that end April 30, though there’s some worry about a provocation after the training wraps up.

Italy orders Knox to stand trial – again

ROME – It’s not over yet for Amanda Knox.

Italy’s top criminal court dealt a stunning setback Tuesday to the 25-year-old college student, overturning her acquittal in the grisly murder of her British roommate and ordering her to stand trial again.

“She thought that the nightmare was over,” Knox’s attorney, Carlo Dalla Vedova, told reporters minutes after conveying the unexpected turn of events to his client, who had stayed up to hear the ruling, which came shortly after 2 a.m. West Coast time. “But she’s ready to fight.”

Now a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Knox called the decision by the Rome-based Court of Cassation “painful” but said she was confident that she would be exonerated.

The American left Italy a free woman after her October 2011 acquittal – but only after serving nearly four years of a 26-year prison sentence from a lower court that convicted her of murdering Meredith Kercher.

Italian law cannot compel Knox to return for the new trial and Dalla Vedova said she had no plans to do so.

Petraeus makes first speech since resigning

LOS ANGELES – David Petraeus, who has remained largely in seclusion since being forced to resign as head of the CIA after the disclosure of an extramarital affair, returned to the public spotlight Tuesday with a speech and an apology before a group of military students and veterans.

Petraeus was scheduled to deliver the keynote address to 600 people at the University of Southern California’s annual ROTC dinner.

The New York Times, which obtained an advance copy of the speech, said Petraeus would acknowledge and apologize for the affair, then would go on to discuss his future plans as a public advocate for veterans’ and other causes.

Associated Press