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China Floods Kill 171, More Rain Expected


CHINA - FLOODS: China has ordered workers and soldiers to strengthen levies in southern China, as forecasters warn that more than 40 rivers are exceeding their warning levels. State meteorologists say more rain is expected in the coming days, where floods have already killed at least 171 people this year. Torrential rains have battered eastern and southern China during the past week, and forced about one-point-three million others to flee their homes. Chinese officials say that while summer flooding has become a regular event, some areas have received record amounts of rainfall. Officials say there is also a forecast of flooding along the Yellow River, which runs through northern China.

NOKOR NUCLEAR: Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is in North Korea for talks that will include the denuclearization of the Stalinist country. The official Xinhua news agency said Xi arrived in Pyongyang today for a three-day visit and will meet with top officials. It was not clear whether he would meet with reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. North Korea agreed last year to disable nuclear plants at its key Yongbyon facility in exchange for aid and diplomatic concessions. As part of the agreement (among six countries - including North Korea and China -) Pyongyang was to hand over a full declaration of all its nuclear activities by the end of 2007, but missed the deadline. There was no word on whether Xi would pressure Pyongyang to hand over the declaration.

JAPAN - EXECUTIONS: Japan executed three people today, including a serial killer convicted of murdering and mutilating four young girls in the late 1980s. Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama told a news conference that 45-year-old Tsutomu Miyazaki had been hanged along with two other murderers. The three executions follow those of four convicted murderers in April -- Japan's first multiple execution since ending a moratorium on the death penalty in 1993. Japan's criminal justice system is extremely secretive in carrying out the death penalty. Condemned inmates are often executed without prior notice and family members are not notified until after the executions have been carried out.

US - CHINA - TRADE: U.S. and Chinese companies have signed 35 business deals worth about eight billion dollars on the eve of high-level trade talks between U.S. and Chinese officials. The deals signed Monday in Washington include manufacturing, hi-technology and telecommunications agreements involving such firms as General Motors, Ford, IBM and Oracle. U.S. and Chinese officials hold talks on Tuesday and Wednesday near Washington in Annapolis, Maryland. The non-government U.S. Chamber of Commerce (the largest federation of American businesses) says it seems likely that the two sides will announce the launch of negotiations on an investment treaty at the end of those talks.

BURMA: The United Nations is launching a massive campaign in Burma this week to fight the spread of dengue fever in areas hard-hit by last month's deadly cyclone. Starting today, hundreds of volunteers will begin fanning out across the main city of Rangoon and into the Irrawaddy Delta, where the U.N. estimates more than two million people have been affected by the storm. The groups will be looking for mosquito larvae that breed in pools of standing water during the monsoon season. That season began early last month when Cyclone Nargis ripped across the delta, leaving more than 130-thousand people dead and missing. U.N. officials fear the number of cases of the mosquito-borne disease could be higher than usual this year because many people have lost their homes and are more exposed to mosquitos.

AFGHANISTAN: Hundreds of families are leaving a district near Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar, as Afghan and NATO troops deploy in the region to fend off Taliban militants. Officials say some 500 Taliban fighters captured villages in southern Arghandab district Monday, just three days after a Taliban assault on Kandahar's main prison. The prison break freed hundreds of inmates, including many insurgents. Witnesses say Taliban militants have blown up a number of small bridges in the villages. A NATO civilian spokesman said Monday the jailbreak put a lot of militants back into circulation. He said Afghan and NATO forces will respond to any potential threats. Afghan and foreign forces have been battling Taliban insurgents since the U.S.-led coalition pushed the Taliban government from power in late 2001.

TURKEY - KURDS: Turkey's military says it has eliminated most of a 21-member Kurdish rebel group trying to enter Turkey from northern Iraq. The military said on its web site today that it opened fire Monday on the rebels about three kilometers inside Iraq. It said most of the fighters were neutralized, which is usually the military's way of saying they were killed.
Saturday, Turkish authorities blamed Kurdish rebels for a bomb attack that damaged a cargo train in southeast Turkey. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has not commented on the allegations. Five-thousand specially trained Turkish troops are carrying out a regional security sweep against the PKK. Tanks and air force support are backing up the soldiers.

UN REFUGEES REPORT: The U.N. refugee agency says the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are behind a rise in the number of refugees worldwide for the second year in a row. A report released today says refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan made up nearly half of the 11-point-four million refugees under the agency's care in the past year, followed by Colombians, Sudanese and Somalis. The agency differentiates between refugees, who flee to other countries, and internally displaced people, who stay within their country's borders. The agency says Colombia had the most internally displaced people, estimated at nearly three million. Iraq had the second-highest number, with about two-point-four million. The agency says the worldwide refugee total had fallen for five years straight before increasing in 2006 and again last year.

US - GAY MARRIAGE: Officials inCalifornia have begun performing same-sex marriages, as the state becomes the second in the United States to recognize same-sex marriages. Officials in a few California districts began issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples Monday evening, local time. Some couples got married on the spot. A large number of gay couples are expected to complete marriage applications later today (Tuesday),when government offices open all across the state. In a four-to-three decision in May, the California Supreme Court ruled against a voter-approved law that restricted marriage to a man and a woman. The court said the state constitution's guarantee of equal rights gives same-sex couples the right to marry.

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