INDONESIA - QUAKE: Indonesian officials have called off their fourth tsunami warning in 24 hours following another powerful earthquake in the country. Authorities say the latest earthquake was measured at six-point-four magnitude, and struck today on Indonesia's eastern Sulawasi island. Details on possible damage are not yet known. At least eight people were killed and several injured after a series of powerful earthquake shook Indonesia's Sumatra island Wednesday night and today, collapsing buildings and triggering brief tsunami warnings. The first hit late Wednesday with a magnitude of eight-point-four near the town of Bengkulu.
JAPAN - ABE: Officials in Japan say Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been hospitalized for extreme fatigue and intestinal pains, a day after he announced his resignation. Medical officials say Mr. Abe will remain in the hospital for at least three days. The prime minister did not mention his health when he announced his resignation Wednesday. He said he was stepping down because the country needs a new leader it can trust in Japan's fight against terrorism. Analysts say Mr. Abe likely decided to resign to prevent the opposition from voting against Japan's continued support of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: U.S., Chinese and Russian experts are wrapping up their tour of North Korea's main nuclear complex today. U.S. officials say the nuclear experts were given full access to the Yongbyon facility on Wednesday when the tour began. The experts are to decide on the best way to disable the nuclear reactor. The group is to meet with North Korean officials on Friday in Pyongyang to discuss the visit. China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States have offered North Korea fuel aid and political concessions if the reclusive state fully accounts for and disables its nuclear programs.
US SENATE - HMONG AMENDMENT: The Senate is giving a boost to Hmong refugees whose guerrilla activities against the Laotian government decades ago have made it hard for them to become U.S. residents. The Hmong fought alongside Americans in the secret war against communists in Laos. They're considered "terrorists" under provisions of the USA Patriot Act and the Real ID Act. That disqualifies them for asylum or green cards. The broad provisions of the Real ID Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2005 as an attachment to the Patriot Act, affirm that groups of two or more individuals who have taken up arms against a government will be deemed a “terrorist organization,” and are therefore prevented from gaining full citizenship, or denied refugee status while even facing possible deportation.
IRAQ: The U.S. military in Iraq says it plans to release between 50 and 80 detainees per day during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A military statement says the program is a joint venture with the Iraqi government and that the first group of detainees is being freed today. The statement quotes the commander of the prisoner operations task force (Major General Douglas Stone) as saying an impartial board will review all detainees eligible for release. He says the process will be fair and completely non-sectarian and non-political.
PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Pakistan's army says it has killed at least 25 insurgents in a battle in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said the fighting erupted in North Waziristan overnight when militants attacked an army checkpoint. He said helicopter gunships backed the Pakistani forces. Arshad said nine Pakistani troops were wounded in the attack. On Wednesday, Pakistani troops backed by helicopters pounded militant hideouts in North Waziristan. About 40 militants were killed in the fighting.
AFGHAN - VIOLENCE: The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan says its forces have killed about 45 insurgents in the country's south. The coalition says ground troops called in air support Wednesday after their patrol of foreign and Afghan troops was attacked by Taleban fighters in Uruzgan province. A similar exchange on Tuesday killed about 12 Taleban fighters in the southern province of Zabul. In a separate incident, officials say a Bangladeshi aid worker was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the northeastern province of Badakshan.
CHILD MORTALITY RATES: The United Nations Children's Fund says the number of children dying worldwide has fallen below 10 million for the first time in more than four decades. The agency says nine-point-seven million children under age five died around the world in 2005, down from nearly 13 million in 1990. The decline is the steepest since record keeping began in 1960, when about 20 million children died. UNICEF credits the drop in child mortality to such measures as measles immunization, vitamin-A supplements for babies, encouraging early breast-feeding, and providing mosquito nets to prevent malaria.
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