US - LAOS: A U.S. magistrate in (Sacramento,) California has ordered the release on bail of an alleged ringleader of a plot to overthrow the government of Laos. On Thursday, the judge (Dale Drozd) set bail at one-and-a-half-million-dollars for Lao General Vang Pao and some of the other defendants in the case. Prosecutors had said Vang and 10 others (jailed on June fourth) are dangerous. Other magistrates had previously ruled that all 11 should remain behind bars. During the court hearing, two of the defendants collapsed and were rushed to the hospital. Three weeks ago, officials had also transferred the 77-year-old Vang Pao from jail to a hospital for unspecified medical reasons.
US - IRAQ: The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a resolution calling for withdrawal of most U.S. combat forces from Iraq by April first of next year. The Democratic-controlled House voted in favor of the measure Thursday, 223 to 201. The resolution calls for President Bush to report to Congress if any U.S. forces are to remain in Iraq for limited purposes such as training Iraqi troops or protecting diplomats. The Bush administration presented an interim report on Iraq Thursday saying military and political progress there is limited -- but President Bush says he still believes the war can be won.
PAKISTAN - MOSQUE: Pakistan has increased security at mosques and government buildings in anticipation of promised protests today by Islamic hardliners angered by a military raid on Islamabad's Red Mosque. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who ordered Tuesday's raid following a week-long siege, vowed in a speech Thursday to crack down on extremists. The government says at least 105 people died during the siege, including militants, students and 10 Pakistani soldiers. Islamic militants had barricaded themselves in the mosque along with hundreds of others.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: North Korea is calling for direct military talks with the United States to discuss peace and security issues on the Korean peninsula. A statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency proposes that the talks include a U.N. representative. In Japan, the top U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said the U.S. was ready to discuss peace and security issues, but only after North Korea dismantles its nuclear program. He said he expects Pyongyang to completely disable its main nuclear reactor by the end of the year. A team of U.N. nuclear inspectors arrived in Beijing en route to North Korea to monitor the shutdown of North Korea's Yongbyong reactor.
JAPAN - TYPHOON: A powerful typhoon is bringing torrential rain to Japan's southern Okinawa islands. Typhoon Man-yi is lashing the main Okinawan city of Naha today. With wind gusts up to 252 kilometers-an-hour, the storm has caused airlines to cancel hundreds of flights, cut power to nearly 100-thousand homes, and injured at least 17 people. As the storm moves north at 30 kilometers an hour, Japan's meteorological agency is warning of torrential rain and flooding. By Saturday morning, forecasters expect 50 centimeters of rain to have fallen on the island of Kyushu.
CHINA - POLLUTION: Chinese regulators are stepping up efforts to deny loans to companies that violate standards on energy efficiency and pollution. A statement today by the China Banking Regulatory Commission says it is ordering banks to withdraw loans from companies running obsolete equipment and causing too much pollution. The efforts are focused on such polluters as power-generation, steel, coal, coke, and chemical plants. The regulator did not reveal the potential scale of the loan recall or say how many companies were on its blacklist.
ASEAN - BURMA: The former secretary-general of the United Nations says Southeast Asian countries should press Burma's government to improve its record on human rights. Speaking today in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, Kofi Annan said the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should not use their policy of mutual non-interference as an excuse to avoid responsibility and to not get involved. Burma joined ASEAN in 1997. Since then, the regional bloc has been embarrassed by Burma's refusal to introduce democratic reforms, or release from detention Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi.
LIBYA - BULGARIA: A French presidential aide says there is reason for hope in the case of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death in Libya for allegedly infecting hundreds of children with the AIDS virus. France has been at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to get the nurses and the doctor freed. Claude Gueant, who accompanied French First Lady Cecilia Sarkozy to Libya Thursday, said today in Paris that Mrs. Sarkozy's recent meetings with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and the families of the children went well. Mrs. Sarkozy flew to Libya after the nation's Supreme Court Wednesday upheld death sentences for the medical workers.
SE ASIA - LIVER CANCER: Thai researchers are warning people in Southeast Asia that eating raw or undercooked fish could lead to liver cancer. Researchers at Thailand's Khon Kaen University say there is a link between liver cancer and fish carrying parasitic worms commonly called flukes. These worms thrive in rivers in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Koreas and China. They can enter the human body when people eat uncooked, smoked or fermented fish - popular dishes throughout the region. The researchers say fewer than one percent of people who are infected with flukes will get liver cancer.
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