TURKEY - PLANE: A Turkish passenger plane has crashed in southwestern Turkey, killing all 56 people onboard. Airline officials say rescue teams reached the crash site and reported that there were no survivors. The privately operated (AtlasJetair) jetliner, with 49 passengers and seven crew members, crashed (early today/Friday) in a mountainous region near the city of Isparta, shortly after the pilot reported that he was preparing to land at the city's airport. Officials say there was no indication of any technical problem and that weather conditions in the area also were normal.
MIDEAST PEACE - UN: The United States has presented to the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution endorsing this week's Israeli-Palestinian agreement to re-start peace negotiations aimed at achieving a two-state settlement by the end of 2008. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who presented the draft late Thursday, said there was "enormous support" for the pledges Israeli and Palestinian leaders made at the U.S. sponsored Mideast conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Earlier, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the peace conference as "a new beginning" in efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and the Palestinians.
PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he "fully intends" to lift emergency rule on December 16th and restore Pakistan's constitution before January parliamentary elections. Mr. Musharraf made the announcement in a speech to the nation Thursday, shortly after being sworn in for a new five-year term as a civilian president. The Pakistani leader defended his decision to impose the state of emergency on November third, saying it was necessary to curb a meddling judiciary and beat back Islamist militants.
SUDAN - BRITAIN: A court in Sudan has convicted a British teacher of inciting religious hatred by letting her class of seven-year-olds name a teddy bear Muhammad. A defense lawyer says the court sentenced 54-year-old Gillian Gibbons Thursday to 15 days in prison, followed by deportation from Sudan. Britain's Foreign Secretary (David Miliband) says the incident was clearly an "innocent misunderstanding by a dedicated teacher," and he called in the Sudanese ambassador to explain the court's action. The Muslim Council of Britain echoed the government's comments and said Sudan's handling of the case could damage Islam's image around the world.
CAMBODIA - BURMA: The United Nations' special envoy to Burma says that country's ruling military junta must release detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and end its repression of political dissidents. Ibrahim Gambari made the comments today at the end of a two-day visit to Cambodia. Amnesty International says several people have been detained in Burma this month despite assurances from the military rulers the arrests would stop. Gambari says any further arrests violate "the spirit of national reconciliation" between the government and the opposition.
CHINA - TYCOON JAILED: A disgraced Chinese real estate tycoon has been sentenced to 16 years in jail for corruption. Zhou Zhengyi was sentenced today by a court in Shanghai after being found guilty of misappropriation of funds, bribery and tax receipt forgery. Zhou, also known as Chau Ching-ngai, was arrested in October 2006, just five months after he completed a three-year sentence for fraud and stock manipulation. The newest charges stem from an investigation of a social security fund scandal that led to the ouster of Shanghai Communist Party leader Chen Liangyu.
HMONG HUNTER KILLING: A white man who killed a Hmong squirrel hunter near Peshtigo was sentenced this week to 69 years in prison. James Nichols, 29, was convicted for second-degree intentional homicide. A jury convicted Nichols almost two months ago of shooting and stabbing Cha Vang, 30, of Green Bay last January in a wildlife preserve and then covering his body with logs and debris to hide it. He claimed self-defense and the jury spared him of a life sentence by deciding not to convict him of first-degree homicide.
VENEZUELA PROTESTS: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is expected to lead rallies today in support of his proposed changes to the country's constitution, which go before the nation in a referendum on Sunday. Tens of thousands of people marched through Caracas Thursday in opposition to the constitutional changes, which would eliminate term limits for Mr. Chavez and help him establish a socialist state. Supporters of Mr. Chavez's government also have been campaigning in the capital, erecting banners asking people to vote "yes" on the referendum, and sponsoring television advertisements.
RUSSIA - PUTIN: Today is the final day of campaigning for Russia's parliamentary elections, with all analysts predicting a big victory for President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party in Sunday's vote. Opposition leader Garry Kasparov, who was arrested this week for organizing an anti-Putin protest in Moscow last week, was freed Thursday after completing a five-day jail sentence. The former world chess champion was unrepentant as he left jail, repeating his charge that the government is manipulating the outcome of the elections.
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