SRI LANKA - BLAST: Sri Lankan officials say a bomb blast tore through a crowded civilian bus in the central part of the country today, killing at least 23 people and wounding more than 60 others. Officials say many schoolchildren were on the bus at the time of the attack, which took place in the town of Buttala (in Monaragala district). It was not immediately clear if the bomb was placed on the bus or planted by the roadside. Officials say a separate bomb blast hit an armored military vehicle in the same region. They say three soldiers were lightly wounded in that attack There has been no immediate claim of responsibility.
BUSH - MIDEAST: U.S. President George Bush concluded his tour of the Middle East in Egypt today, saying "nations in the neighborhood" are willing to help Israelis and the Palestinians reach peace deal. Mr. Bush made the remark after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Later today (Wednesday), Mr. Bush departs for Washington. Mr. Bush spent Monday and Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, where he called on the OPEC oil cartel to put more oil on the world market to help reduce energy costs. Mr. Bush says he hopes that after his talks with Saudi King Abdullah, OPEC will authorize an increase in production.
US POLITICS: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has won Michigan's Republican primary, making him the third candidate from his party to have won a major contest in the past few weeks. Arizona Senator John McCain and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee conceded Tuesday night to Romney, a Michigan native whose father (George Romney) served as state governor in the 1960s. McCain had won the New Hampshire primary last week, while Huckabee won the Iowa caucasus a little over two weeks ago. Senator Hillary Clinton won the Democratic race, which was essentially uncontested in Michigan.
UN - THAILAND - LAOS: The U.N. refugee agency has asked
Thailand to release a group of ethnic Hmong refugees held for more than a year. UNHCR said Tuesday that Thailand should allow the 149 refugees from Laos to accept repatriation offers from other countries. The agency says the detainees have not committed a crime and are being held under substandard conditions. Ninety of the refugees are children, five of whom were born in detention. Thai authorities detained the refugees in Bangkok during a round up in November 2006. Since late 2006, they have been held in a detention center near Laos border.
JAPAN - MEKONG - RIGHTS:
Human Rights Watch has asked Japan to make human rights a major topic at a meeting with five Southeast Asian countries. The New York-based rights group's Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson said she was disappointed that human rights are not on the agenda of the meeting, which opens Wednesday in Tokyo. In an an open letter to Japan's Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura issued Tuesday, the group urged Japan to use its influence to improve human rights in the region.
KOREAS: South Korea's conservative president-elect Lee Myung-bak says that after he takes office, he will dissolve a key government agency that has long handled relations with the North. In a statement today, the transition team for Mr. Lee's incoming administration announced that the Unification Ministry will be merged with the Foreign Ministry to help better coordinate efforts in dealing with North Korea. The plan, however, was immediately met with opposition. Mr. Lee's liberal opponents in the legislature issued statements today criticizing the idea. Support from lawmakers is needed to approve the change.
CHINA - RAPE: Chinese state media report that a former national lawmaker has been sentenced to death for raping more than 20 middle school girls over a period of two years. According to reports, Wu Tianxi was actively seeking out young girls to rape between 2005 and 2007. He was sentenced to death by a court in central China's Henan province on Tuesday. Reports say the aging 61-year-old believed that having sexual relations with the girls (between the ages of 12 and 16) would boost his health and wealth. A woman who helped Wu track down the girls and several other accomplices were also given jail terms in connection with the case.
PAKISTAN: Pakistan's military says hundreds of Islamic militants captured a remote paramilitary fort near the border with Afghanistan early today, after a fierce battle that killed seven soldiers and as many as 40 militants A military spokesman (Major General Athar Abbas) said the fighting broke out late Tuesday when heavily armed militants attacked the fort (at Sararogha town) in South Waziristan tribal region. The spokesman said 20 soldiers were missing and 15 others who escaped have reported to another base nearby.
US - CLONED FOOD: U.S. officials say they have concluded that food from cloned animals is as safe to consume as food from animals bred the conventional way. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the findings of its final risk assessment during a news conference in Washington Tuesday. FDA officials say years of analysis show meat and milk from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring are safe to consume. But opponents from animal and consumer welfare groups argue that the FDA was heavily influenced by cloning companies and failed to fully consider the possible side effects.
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