IRAQ: Iraqi police say a car bomb has exploded in eastern Baghdad, killing at least 66 people and wounding about 100 others. Authorities say the blast occurred early today (Saturday) in a crowded market in the Shi'ite district of Sadr City. Separately, Iraqi officials say gunmen kidnapped a Sunni female member of parliament and seven of her bodyguards today in Baghdad. A spokesman for the parliament speaker's office says the victim is Taiseer al-Mashhadani, a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest parliamentary bloc of the Sunni minority community.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel has rejected demands from Palestinian militants holding an Israeli soldier. The militants say Israel must free one thousand prisoners and stop its assault on the Gaza Strip. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said today (Saturday) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has reiterated that there will be no deals. He said either the Israeli soldier will be released or Israel will act to bring about his release.
US SPACE SHUTTLE: Technicians are making l ast minute preparations for today's (Saturday's) launch of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery on a flight to the International Space Station. Flight officials with the U.S. space agency NASA are wary of storm clouds near the Florida Atlantic coast launch site (in the southern U.S.) which could postpone the launch (scheduled for 3:49 EST/1949 GMT). This is just the second shuttle flight since Columbia disintegrated on reentry three years ago, killing all seven astronauts on board.
HONG KONG ANNIVERSARY: Nearly 20-thousand Hong Kong residents have marched through Hong Kong to demand full democracy. Today's (Saturday's) rally took place as the former British colony marked the ninth anniversary of its return to Chinese rule. Calls for universal suffrage have cooled in recent years, with far fewer people taking part in today's demonstrations than in previous years. In 2003, more than 500-thousand demonstrators protested during the anniversary of the handover to China. Hong Kong was promised broad autonomy when it returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula. Beijing has so far ruled out full universal suffrage.
CHINA - TIBET: China has opened the world's highest railway, linking the remote Himalayan region of Tibet to the rest of the country. Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the opening ceremony today (Saturday) in the Chinese city of Golmud in northwestern Qinghai province. The train is bound for the Tibetan regional capital of Lhasa. In a televised address, he called the railway a "magnificent accomplishment" in China's history. Eighty percent of China's railway into Tibet is above four thousand meters in altitude, and rises above five thousand meters in some places. Passenger coaches must be pressurized in the same way as aircraft cabins.
AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT: More than 50 leaders, mostly from African nations, are set to begin talks in the Gambian capital, Banjul, on a range of issues facing the continent. Officials say the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region will likely dominate the two-day African Union summit getting under way today (Saturday). The Sudanese government has rejected an offer for U.N. peacekeepers to take over from an African Union force in Darfur.
INDIA - KASHMIR: Riot police have clashed with thousands of demonstrators in Indian Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar. Police fired teargas to disperse up to four thousand people who took to the streets today (Saturday) to protest the shooting death of a musician by security forces. At least six police officers were injured in the clashes. Witnesses say police officers fired at 31-year-old composer Inayatullah Bhat late Friday near his home in Srinagar.
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