South Pacific Quake: Officials in the Solomon Islands say at least 12 people have been killed by a powerful earthquake and the tsunami that followed.
The magnitude eight-point-zero quake struck the South Pacific nation at 7:40 a.m. local time (2040 UTC Sunday). It was centered about 350 kilometers northwest of the Solomons' capital, Honiara, at a depth of 10 kilometers.
Witnesses say waves up to five meters tall crashed into the islands of Gizo and Choiseul, destroying buildings which had survived the earthquake.
Some reports say entire villages have been washed away. Officials expect the death toll to rise as communications are re-established with affected areas.
The premier of Western Province (Alex Lokopio) says about three-thousand people on Gizo have fled to the hills and need emergency supplies. Gizo is a popular scuba diving destination.
South Korea – US Trade: U.S. and South Korean officials say they have reached a free trade agreement after almost 10 months of negotiations.
The trade deal would be the biggest for the United States since the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1992. It also would also be South Korea's largest trade agreement to date. The deal requires legislative approval in both countries.
Negotiators in Seoul finalized the agreement this (Monday) morning, just minutes before a deadline for President Bush to notify Congress of his intention to sign an agreement.
Mr. Bush said in a letter released today the deal will create export opportunities for American farmers, manufacturers and service suppliers, and will create better-paying jobs in the U.S.
He says the agreement will help American consumers save money and also will strengthen the U.S.-South Korean partnership, which he calls a force for stability in Asia.
Japan – Thailand: Thailand's prime minister travels to Tokyo today (Monday) for a four-day visit that will include meetings with Japanese leaders and the signing of a free-trade agreement.
General Surayud Chulanont will sign the trade pact on Tuesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He is also scheduled to meet with Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
The Thai military installed General Surayud as prime minister last October after removing Thaksin Shinawatra, who had completed negotiations with Japan on the free-trade agreement. The pact will lift tariffs on goods traded between the two countries, but will take several years to go completely into effect.
Cambodia Elections: Cambodia's ruling party says it has won an overwhelming landslide in the country's local-level elections.
The Cambodian People's Party said today (Monday) it gained control over more than 98 percent of the one-thousand-621 communes in Sunday's vote.
Official results (tallied by the National Election Council) are expected to be released April 24th.
The main opposition Sam Rainsy Party says it has won control of 27 communes - which would double its tally from the first-ever elections held in 2002.
This year, 12 political parties fielded more than 102-thousand candidates to compete for seats on the commune councils, which are small administrative bodies that govern rural villages or city neighborhoods.
China's state-run media say labor officials in the southern province of Guangdong have widened their investigation into allegations that some international fast food chains are underpaying part-time workers.
The "People's Daily" said today (Monday) the investigation has widened from the provincial capital (,Guangzhou,) to the entire province. Last week, a local paper (, "New Express",) reported underpayments of up to 40 percent at McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut.
China's official trade union (, the All China Federation of Trade Unions,) is threatening legal action against the fast-food giants. A union spokesman (Li Shouzhen) says court action will be taken if the allegations of underpayment prove to be true and the companies refuse to correct mistakes.
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