PAKISTAN - POLITICS: Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled today that presidential elections expected to extend President Pervez Musharraf's rule can proceed. However, the court says that final results cannot be announced until it has decided on legal challenges against Saturday's election. The ruling follows last-minute petitions challenging the president's re-election bid. Political opponents argue that President Musharraf cannot seek another five-year term while remaining as army chief. The Pakistani leader has vowed to relinquish that position if re-elected. He already has nominated a former top intelligence chief to replace him as head of the army when he steps down.
NEPAL - POLITICS: Elections to decide the political future of Nepal have been delayed after leaders of the country's ruling parties and former Maoist rebels failed to break a political deadlock. It is unclear when a new vote will be held to elect a constituent assembly, charged with re-writing the constitution and determining the fate of Nepal's monarchy. The polls, which had been scheduled for November 22nd, were a key element to a peace deal signed last year that ended the Maoists' decade-long insurgency and brought them into mainstream politics. The ex-rebels left the coalition government last month following a refusal by other political parties to immediately declare Nepal a republic.
BURMA: The U.S. envoy in Rangoon, Shari Villarosa, is expected to meet with Burma's military leaders today after they invited her for talks in the country's administrative capital, Naypyidaw. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday that she would send a "very clear message" to the Burmese leaders to start a meaningful dialogue with democratic opposition groups, stop the violent crackdown on peaceful protests and encourage economic and political reforms. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council will hear testimony today from the U.N. envoy to Burma, despite China's insistence that last week's bloody crackdown in Rangoon was an internal matter for the country.
CHINA - RECALLS: The U.S. government has issued a recall for more than 500-thousand Chinese-made toys and other products because they contain dangerous amounts of lead. Among the products recalled Thursday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission are key chains, toy blocks and aluminum water bottles, as well as flashlights based on the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie series. Excessive amounts of lead can cause brain damage, even death, if ingested by small children. Thursday's recall is the latest involving Chinese-made toys imported to the United States.
SOKOR - US BEEF: South Korea's agricultural ministry says it has temporarily blocked imports of U.S. beef after finding prohibited animal parts in a shipment. The ministry said today it suspended quarantine inspections after finding spinal material in a shipment sent in early September. The ministry did not identify the U.S. beef packer involved. South Korea also suspended U.S. beef imports in early August after a shipment was found to contain spinal material. Certain animal parts are prohibited because of concerns about mad cow disease. U.S. beef imports have been suspended several times since last year. South Korea was once the third largest market for U.S. beef.
JAPAN - SPACE: Japan's first lunar probe has begun to orbit the moon, in what Japanese space officials are calling the largest mission to investigate the moon since the U.S. Apollo program decades ago. After three delays, and four years behind schedule, Japan's space agency launched the Kaguya lunar orbiter in mid-September. 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. Officials at Japan's space agency say data collected by Kaguya should help scientists' efforts to eventually set up a solar power station on the moon.
PINOCHET FAMILY ARRESTS: Family members of the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet have been arrested on corruption charges. Judge Carlos Cerda Thursday ordered the arrest of Pinochet's widow, Lucia Hiriart, as well as the couple's five adult sons and daughters. Arrest orders were also issued for 17 other people, including Pinochet's former secretary, retired military generals and other former associates. Judge Cerda said he took action because of solid indications that they had participated in the misuse of funds while Pinochet held power from 1973 until 1990. The Chilean government described the arrests as a strictly judicial decision.
US - IRAQ - CORRUPTION: A former Iraqi anti-corruption investigator says corruption in the Iraqi government has cost the country as much as 18 billion dollars. Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi told U.S. lawmakers on a House panel in Washington Thursday that corruption is rampant in the Iraqi government, affecting nearly every government ministry and contributing to sectarian militias. He said even Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has protected some allies engaged in corruption. Radhi said 31 members of his own staff in Iraq were assassinated. He has since left Iraq and seeks asylum in the United States.
IRAQ: The U.S. military in Iraq says about 25 militants were killed and two houses destroyed in an air strike near Baquba, north of Baghdad today. A military statement says support aircraft were called in when coalition troops came under intense attack during a raid targeting a "special groups" commander believed to be linked to the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The military says gunmen opened fire on coalition soldiers with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and at least one person was seen carrying what appeared to be an anti-aircraft weapons.
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