IRAQ: Iraqi police say bomb blasts at two Baghdad pet markets today killed at least 64 people and wounded more than 100 others. Authorities say a female suicide bomber carried out the first attack, killing at least 46 people and wounding 82 others in a popular market (al-Ghazl) in central Baghdad. Militants have targeted this market several times since the start of the Iraq war. About 20 minutes later, an attack at a market in southern Baghdad killed at least 18 people and wounded 25 others.
KENYA: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says feuding political parties in Kenya must look beyond their individual interests and beyond party lines to end the post-election violence in the country. The U.N. chief arrived in Nairobi today and quickly joined talks between the rival parties under the mediation of Mr. Ban's predecessor, former Secretary General Kofi Annan. Mr. Ban met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki Thursday at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and is holding talks today with Raila Odinga of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement.
AFGHANISTAN - AL-QAIDA: An Islamist Website and U.S. officials say a senior al-Qaida commander based in Afghanistan has been killed in Pakistan. The al-Qaida-affiliated site, Al-Ekhlass, posted a message Thursday announcing the death of Abu Laith al-Libi. He is one of the top al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan. The message, which called Libi a "martyr," did not give a cause of death. A U.S. government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Libi was killed in an airstrike carried out by an unmanned drone earlier this week.
US POLITICS: The two top candidates for the Democratic Party's nomination for the U.S. presidency exchanged views on key issues Thursday in a nationally-televised debate in California. Illinois Senator Barack Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton abandoned the hostile tone that had characterized their debate last week before the South Carolina primary, which Obama won in a landslide. They stressed their differences, as well as their shared values on many issues, such as illegal immigration.
HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT: A leading human rights group says the United States and other democracies are not holding authoritarian rulers accountable for violating the civil and political rights of their citizens. In its annual report, Human Rights Watch says Western democracies risk undermining human rights all over the world by failing to demand offending governments to honor their citizens' rights. Among countries named as violators of their democratic credentials in 2007 were Colombia, Kenya, Pakistan, Russia and Thailand.
CHINA - SNOW: Chinese forecasters say new snowstorms will batter already hard-hit central China today, just as a massive pre-holiday transport crunch was showing signs of easing. Forecasters say nine of the worst affected provinces in central and southern China will face moderate to heavy snowstorms and freezing rain today. The snow and below-freezing temperatures are expected to further affect agriculture, power grids and transportation. Chinese officials say almost all of the nation's railway system was back on track and running today.
INDONESIA - BIRD FLU: Indonesia's health ministry says a 31-year-old woman has died of bird flu, raising the national death toll from the disease to 102. Officials say the woman died late Thursday at a Jakarta hospital. There was no immediate word on how she contracted the virus. Most cases in Indonesia involve contact with infected poultry. Bird flu has killed more people in Indonesia than any other country since it began spreading in Southeast Asia in late 2003. The World Health Organization says 224 people around the world have died from the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu since 2003.
PAKISTAN - MISSILE: The Pakistani military says it has successfully test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. President Pervez Musharraf joined the nation's army chief and other officials and scientists in witnessing the test today from an undisclosed location. After the test, Mr. Musharraf said Pakistan "has developed a strong nuclear deterrence capability." The missile is reported to have a range of 13-hundred kilometers. Last week, Pakistan test-fired another medium-range missile. Pakistan became a declared nuclear power 10 years ago when it carried out nuclear tests in response to earlier tests carried out by rival India.
INDIA - INTERNET WOES: India's international communications have been improving, but remain slower than usual following damage done to undersea Internet cables. The outages began after two cables at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Egypt were damaged Wednesday. That disrupted Internet service from Egypt all the way to Bangladesh. Industry experts say telecommunications providers are looking for alternate systems, because it could take up to a week to get normal service restored.
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