US - IRAQ: The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a new war funding bill that provides 43-billion dollars for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but only through July. Lawmakers voted 221 to 205 late Thursday to approve the Democratic-backed bill that includes funds to train Iraqi and Afghan security forces. Congress would have to approve in July an additional 53-billion dollars to maintain operations through September, after President Bush presents a report on the situation in Iraq.
KOREAS - MILITARY TALKS: South Korea's Defense Ministry says the two Koreas have reached a military agreement clearing the way for railway test-runs across their heavily fortified border. The ministry says the two sides issued a statement today following four days of high level talks in the border truce village of Panmunjom. The talks were to end Thursday, but continued today. The statement also said the two sides agreed in principle to create a joint fishing area in the Yellow Sea along their disputed western sea border.
EAST TIMOR - ELECTIONS: East Timor's prime minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, has pledged to unite the country, as provisional election results show him set to win the presidency. Mr. Ramos-Horta says he will not declare victory until after official results are announced, possibly as early as today. Thursday, the country's election commission said Mr. Ramos-Horta had 73 percent of the vote in the run-off election with 90 percent of the ballots counted. The prime minister's rival, Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres, had about 27-percent.
VIETNAM - DISSIDENTS: A court in Vietnam has sentenced two dissident lawyers to prison on charges of spreading propaganda against the state. In a one-day trial today, the Hanoi People's Court handed down a five-year prison sentence to Nguyen Van Dai and a four-year term for Le Thi Cong Nhan. They were arrested March sixth on accusations of collaborating with overseas pro-democracy advocates and using the Internet to spread their views. A number of activists have recently been sentenced to prison terms on similar charges.
THAILAND - UNREST: Police in southern Thailand say militants have opened fire on a police checkpoint, killing two officers. Authorities say the gunmen attacked the post today in Narathiwat province. The militants burned the bodies, then fled. On Wednesday, a roadside bomb in the same province killed seven soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks on Thai security forces this year. Narathiwat province is one of three mainly Muslim provinces in southern Thailand. The region has been the scene of an Islamist insurgency since 2004.
THAILAND - YOUTUBE: Thai authorities say the popular U.S. video sharing website YouTube has agreed to remove clips deemed insulting to the country's revered king. The Thai Ministry for Information and Communication Technology said today that Google, which owns YouTube, has agreed to remove 12 video clips from the site. The government blocked access to YouTube in early April after the company turned down Thailand's demand that it remove a clip mocking King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
US - CHINA ESPIONAGE: A U.S. federal court jury has convicted a Chinese-born engineer of conspiring to export U.S. defense technology to China. Chi Mak, a naturalized American citizen, also was found guilty Thursday of being an unregistered foreign agent. He faces up to 35 years in prison (when he is sentenced in September). Prosecutors in California said Mak copied sensitive information from his employer, a defense contractor, and gave it to family members who then passed the information on to China.
US - TRADE: Democratic Party leaders in the U.S. Congress have completed a trade-policy agreement with the Bush administration to ensure that future free-trade accords include protection for workers' rights and the environment. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who announced the agreement, says the new trade policy will help ease problems that have accompanied the trend toward world trade globalization.
REPRESSIVE GOVERNMENTS SURVEY: A worldwide human-rights survey names 17 countries where political rights and civil liberties are least respected, including North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Burma. The U.S.-based group Freedom House says most of the nations in its report have been on the annual list of "the world's most repressive societies" for five years or more. In addition to North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Burma, Freedom House says other governments in its "most repressive" category are regimes are Cuba, Libya, Somalia and Turkmenistan. Also on the list are Belarus, China, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Zimbabwe.
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