Two American-flagged ships carrying cargo for the US Defence and State departments came under attack by the Houthis of Yemen on Wednesday, with the US Navy intercepting some of the incoming fire. Although the vessels and crew were not harmed in the attack, it further raised the stakes of the group's ongoing attacks on shipping through the vital Bab el-Mandeb Strait, launched to avenge Israel's offensive in Gaza against Hamas. Danish shipper Maersk, in a statement to AP, confirmed two of its US-flagged container ships - Maersk Detroit and Maersk Chesapeake - came under attack. The US Navy was accompanying its ships at the time.

Since January 11, the US and UK have launched multiple rounds of airstrikes on Houthi positions in Yemen with a view to stopping these attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. But the Iran-backed group that is now effectively in control of Yemen has not been cowered, and has vowed on each occasion to hit back harder.

US federal regulators approved an inspection process that will let airlines resume flying their Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners, which had to be grounded after a side panel blew out of a plane in midflight earlier this month. Mike Whitaker, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, however said it would not agree to any Boeing request to expand production of Max planes until the agency is satisfied that quality-control concerns have been addressed.

A panel called a door plug blew off an Alaska Max 9 as it flew 3 miles above Oregon on Jan. 5. Despite a hole in the body of the craft, pilots were able to land the plane safely. The FAA will now require airlines to conduct "detailed visual inspections" of door plugs and other components, adjust fasteners and fix any damage they find before putting Max 9s back into service. The agency said the process was developed using data from inspections of 40 grounded planes.

North Korea said it conducted its first flight test of a new cruise missile, as it expands its military capabilities in the face of deepening tensions with the United States and neighbours. The report in state media came a day after South Korea's military said it detected the North firing several cruise missiles into waters off its western coast. It didn't immediately provide more details about the numbers of missiles fired or their flight characteristics.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said the Pulhwasal-3-31 missile is still in its development phase and that the launch did not pose a threat to neighbours. It described the missile as "strategic," implying an intent to arm them with nuclear weapons. A spokesperson for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the missiles flew a shorter distance than previous North Korean cruise missile launches. Since 2021, North Korea has conducted at least 10 rounds of tests of what it described as long-range cruise missiles fired from both land and sea.

Canada capped new international student permits for 2024 by one-third compared to 2023, the country's immigration minister announced. The measure is aimed in part at easing soaring demand for housing and social services, with the number of international students set to triple from a decade ago. Under the cap approximately 364,000 international students are expected to receive study permits this year- a 35 percent net decrease from 2023. The 2025 limit will be assessed at the end of the year.

The cap is meant to "improve program integrity, set international students up for success, (and) to maintain a sustainable level of temporary residence in Canada," Immigration Minister Marc Miller said. It will not apply to master's and doctoral students, nor elementary and secondary school students. Miller said the government will also restrict foreign students' eligibility to receive work permits and crack down on private colleges.

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