LAOS - BIRD FLU: The World Health Organization has confirmed the second human bird flu death in Laos. The woman died on March eighth near the capital, Vientiane. Authorities in Laos reported the country's first bird flu death earlier this month, in a 15-year-old girl. The often-deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed 169 people since outbreaks began in late 2003, mostly in Asia.
CHINA - WEN: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held his annual news conference today in Beijing, where he discussed such issues as the country's growing economy and regional concerns. Mr. Wen said corruption in China is worsening, and must be addressed by reducing the concentration of power among high-ranking officials. On regional issues, Mr. Wen said he wants his visit to Japan in April to help warm relations between the two countries.
CHINA - PROPERTY: China's legislature has passed a landmark bill on property rights, and revised a tax law to eliminate preferential rates for foreign companies. The annual meeting of the National People's Congress ended today with passage of the two significant laws. The hotly-debated property legislation effectively grants private property the same status as state-owned property. The property law has been debated for 13 years.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: The head of the Macau bank at the center of U.S. financial sanctions against North Korea is denying the bank intentionally accepted illicit funds. Stanley Au, chairman of Banco Delta Asia, said today he would close the accounts in question. He also said the bank plans to appeal the ruling imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department Wednesday.
IRAN NUCLEAR: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has again vowed his country will not yield to international pressure to abandon its nuclear program. Mr. Ahmadinejad made his latest comment on the issue today, one day after the president of the U.N. Security Council said the Iranian leader has asked to address the Council when it votes to impose new sanctions on Tehran for refusing to suspend enriching uranium.
PAKISTAN - JUSTICE: Pakistani riot police have detained several political leaders and used tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting the president's ouster of the country's chief justice. Witnesses say the head of the opposition Islamist alliance and several other opposition lawmakers were arrested as they tried to break through a police barricade around the Supreme Court today.
INDIA - LAND PROTEST: India's West Bengal state is paralyzed by a general strike called to protest this week's killing of 14 villagers demonstrating against government seizure of farmland for a planned industrial park. Schools, business offices and shops across the eastern state are closed today, but government offices remain open. Scattered violence was reported in the state capital, Kolkata, where protesters burned at least two buses and disrupted train service.
US - VIETNAM: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has pressed Vietnam to tackle human rights abuses during a meeting with her Vietnamese counterpart. A U.S. State Department spokesman says human rights topped the agenda. U.S. officials say the talks Thursday also covered Southeast Asian regional issues, trade, and plans for a visit to the United States by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.
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