Laos – Hmong: A U.S.-based group say about 400 ethnic Hmong have surrendered to Lao authorities after hiding in the jungle for years.The Fact Finding Commission said the group emerged from the jungle Wednesday in the northern province of XiengKhoang. About half of them were children.The commission says several hours after their surrender, the Hmong were taken away in military trucks.A Lao government spokesman (Yong Chantalangsy) did not confirm the report today (Thursday) but said many villagers chose to move closer to government development programs for their livelihoods.Many of the Hmong sided with the United States during the Vietnam War and fought against communist forces now ruling Laos.Human rights groups have accused the Laos government of persecuting remaining Hmong guerillas and their families.
Iraqi police say gunmen wearing military uniforms have kidnapped at least 30 people during a raid in central Baghdad. Police say the daylight kidnapping raid targeted merchants in a commercial area of the city. Gunmen driving several vehicles rounded up the victims at gunpoint before driving off. On Wednesday, bombings and shootings across Iraq killed at least 34 people. The attacks included bombings that targeted Shi'ites in Baghdad and suicide car bombers who attacked an Iraqi army base outside Kirkuk.
Israel's top court has declined to ban the military's practice of carrying out targeted killings of Palestinian militants.But the three-judge panel unanimously ruled the practice is not always legal. The court left it up to the military to evaluatethe legality of the tactic on a case-by-case basis, before it decides to carry out a targeted killing. Israel's military has routinely used the practice against militants during the past six years of violence. The high court has repeatedly delayed ruling on the case.
China – US Trade:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has urged China to make its currency more flexible, at the start of high-level economic talks in Beijing. Paulson is leading a U.S. delegation that includes several cabinet-rank officials and (Ben Bernanke,) the head of theFederal Reserve, the U.S. central bank. The delegation is under pressure from U.S. companies to take a hard line with China over the value of its currency and market access. Washington says the yuan is being kept undervalued, making Chinese exports unfairly cheap and preventing U.S. companies from being competitive.
Japan – Defense:
Japanese parliamentary committee has passed legislation to upgrade the country's defense agency into a full-blown ministry. The set of bills approved today (Thursday) would transform the defense agency from an affiliate of the Cabinet Office to a policy-making ministry with a budget. The legislation would also make overseas peacekeeping activities a regular part of the defense forces' activities along with defense and disaster relief at home.The legislation is to go before the upper house of parliament Friday for approval. The lower house approved the bill last November.
Burma – Red Cross:
Red Cross officials say Burma's military government has allowed the humanitarian group to reopen field offices that were ordered closed in October.Thierry Ribaux, the deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, says Burma's home minister (MajorGeneral Maung Oo) confirmed last week that the Red Cross offices could reopen along the border. Ribaux told VOA today (Thursday) that his group must still discuss the details of how their activities can be carried out.He said the Red Cross still is not allowed access to the country's prisons. The government imposed that ban last December.
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