US - IRAQ: President Bush will visit a U.S. Marine base near Washington today to push his message that the United States is succeeding in Iraq. The president announced Thursday during a nationally televised address that the additional 30-thousand troops deployed to Iraq earlier this year will be withdrawn by next July. Mr. Bush said the reduction is possible because his decision to send the reinforcements has increased security. Mr. Bush told the nation the Iraqi government has succeeded in several aspects, such as passing a budget, sharing oil revenues, and bringing members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party back into the government.
IRAQ: Sunni Arab mourners in western Iraq have called for revenge against al-Qaida at the funeral of Sunni tribal council leader Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who was killed in a roadside bomb blast near his home Thursday. Scores of Iraqi police and U.S. military vehicles lined the route of the funeral procession from the slain Sunni leader's home in Ramadi to the burial grounds (today / Friday). There has been no claim of responsibility for the killing of Abu Risha, but family members blamed al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists. U.S. officials credit Abu Risha and allied sheikhs for organizing against al-Qaida terrorists and improving security in western al-Anbar province.
SUDAN - ITALY: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says his government is ready to call a cease-fire with rebels in Darfur starting next month when negotiators meet for peace talks in Libya. Mr. Bashir made the announcement in Rome today, following talks with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. President Bashir, in Italy for a three-day visit, is also meeting with Pope Benedict at his summer residence (at Castel Gandolfo just outside Rome) today. The pontiff has called for an end to what he calls the "horror" in Darfur. This is the first time that the Islamic president of Sudan is meeting with the pope.
INDONESIA - QUAKE: Another strong earthquake has rattled Indonesia's Sumatra island, prompting authorities to issue a brief tsunami warning. Officials say a magnitude six-point-nine quake hit today 153 kilometers northwest of Bengkulu. Sumatra has been hit by a series of powerful earthquakes and aftershocks since a magnitude eight-point-four quake struck on Wednesday. Several tsunami warnings have been issued and lifted since then. Relief and rescue teams have been surveying the damage on Sumatra island. The latest death toll from the earthquakes stands at 10. Hundreds of buildings have also collapsed.
JAPAN - POLITICS: Japan's race to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has narrowed to a two-way contest, following the abrupt resignation of Japan's leader this week. Yasuo Fukuda, a former chief Cabinet secretary, announced today that he intends to run for president of the Liberal Democratic Party during party elections on September 23rd. Shortly after declaring his candidacy, Fukuda won the backing of the finance minister (Fukushiro Nukaga), who withdrew his own bid. Hours later, former Foreign Minister Taro Aso joined the race to lead the LDP. He is secretary-general of the party.
JAPAN SPACE: Japan has launched its first lunar probe in what Japanese officials are calling the largest mission to investigate the moon since the U.S. Apollo program began nearly four decades ago. After three delays, and four years behind schedule, Japan's space agency launched the Kaguya lunar orbiter this morning from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. Its mission is to orbit the moon for one year, collecting data on the moon's composition, geography and below-ground structure. The data will be used to study the origin and evolution of the moon. This is not Japan's first mission to the moon. In 1990, it launched a small probe completing a brief fly-by.
CHINA INCOME GAP: China's Xinhua news agency says the income gap between rural and urban areas is widening in China, despite years of efforts by government officials to bridge (lessen) the gap. Vice Minister of Agriculture Yin Chengjie told Xinhua that last year, the average Chinese city resident earned nearly three-and-a-third times as much (3.28) as his counterpart in the countryside - slightly more than in 2004 (3.21). Yin noted that the income growth rate of Chinese farmers has risen by more than six percent for the past three years. But they are still making far less than urban citizens.
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