Wildfires fueled by hot, gusty winds and drought-stricken forests have forced more than 500-thousand people in Southern California to evacuate. The fires have destroyed or damaged at least 15-hundred homes and buildings, and burned more than 120-thousand hectares of land from Los Angeles in the north, to the Mexican border south of San Diego. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says at least 68-thousand homes remain at risk, and more than six-thousand firefighters are on the front lines of the blazes. Local officials say their resources have been strained by the fires.
security officials say two bomb blasts have killed at least eight people in a mainly Shi'ite area (Jisr Diyala) south of Baghdad. Police say the near simultaneous explosions wounded more than 20 people this (Wednesday) morning in a busy market area where people had gathered for transport to their jobs. Officials say several women and children were among the victims. In another development, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday ordered new measures to improve government oversight of private security guards who protect U.S. personnel in Iraq.
NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR: Senior South Korean officials say North Korea is ready to begin disabling its main nuclear facilities within weeks. South Korea's Foreign Minister said today (Wednesday) that the actual disablement process would start in November. Song Min-soon said the North is also ready to provide a complete and correct declaration of all of its nuclear programs. Separately today, a senior South Korean presidential security adviser, Baek Jong-chun, said he expects Pyongyang to substantially disable its nuclear facilities well before a year-end deadline.
Burma activists rallied outside the Chinese embassy in Bangkok today (Wednesday), as part of a day of worldwide protests to demand the release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The rallies are scheduled for 12 cities across Asia, the United States and Europe to mark the 12th year that Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has been held under house arrest. Other women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize are urging the United Nations to take decisive action to secure her release. In an open letter today, they called Aung San Suu Kyi's detention the most visible sign of the brutality of Burma's military government.
US-EROPE-NATO: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to urge NATO members to send more troops to Afghanistan at an alliance meeting today (Wednesday) in the Netherlands. Gates says there is an urgent need for NATO troops to train the Afghan army and provide security for provincial reconstruction teams. U.S. officials also say the NATO force needs more aircraft and more flexibility in how it uses troops from contributing nations.
Audio in Lao.