CHINA - OLYMPICS - DARFUR: China says it regrets U.S. film director Steven Spielberg's decision to step down as artistic consultant to the Beijing Olympic Games, and that it shares global concern about the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region. At a news conference today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao defended China's record in Sudan, noting that it has made "unremitting efforts" to resolve the Darfur issue. He also said some people were operating with ulterior motives, adding that linking Darfur to the Olympic Games would not resolve the issue.
US - CHINA ESPIONAGE: China has criticized the arrests of four people in the United States on charges of spying for the communist nation, calling the allegations "groundless." A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry (Liu Jianchao) urged Washington to abandon what he described as "Cold War thinking," and do more to contribute to the mutual trust and friendship between the two nations. The U.S. Justice Department announced the arrests on Monday. The department said a civilian military employee, Gregg William Bergersen, provided classified information to Tai Shen Kuo, a naturalized U.S. citizen.
BURMA - REBEL LEADER: A top leader of Burma's biggest rebel group, the Karen National Union, has been shot and killed. A reporter for VOA (Burmese Service) says KNU secretary general Pado Mahn Sha Lap Han was killed today at his home in the Thai town of Mae Sot, near the Burmese border. The apparent assassination was carried out by two unidentified men. So far, no one has claimed responsibility. The KNU has been fighting for autonomy in eastern Burma for decades. It is the only major ethnic rebel group that has not signed a formal ceasefire with the Burmese government.
PHILIPPINES - ARROYO: Philippine military officials say they have uncovered a plot by Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida to assassinate President Gloria Arroyo. The officials say the plot was hatched by members of the Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf group and the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah. Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza, the chief of Mrs. Arroyo's security detail, told reporters today that other high-profile targets were included in the plot on the president's life. He says the discovery of the plot forced Mrs. Arroyo to cancel an upcoming trip to the northern resort city of Baguio.
MALAYSIA - ELECTIONS: In an announcement issued today, the Election Commission said parliamentary candidates will be nominated on February 24th. The election dates were announced one day after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi dissolved parliament to clear the way for early general elections. The elections will test Mr. Abdullah's popularity at a time of increasing concern over inflation. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told VOA Wednesday that Mr. Abdullah is calling for early elections to prevent him from running for office.
VIETNAM - BIRD FLU: Health officials in Vietnam say a 40-year-old man has died of bird flu, bringing the death toll in the southeast Asian nation to 49. Officials say the man, from northern Hai Duong province, died Wednesday after being admitted to a hospital in Hanoi several days ago. He is the second person to die from avian influenza in Vietnam this year. Health officials say test results confirmed the man was infected with the H5N1 strain of the virus. The World Health Organization says 225 people around the world have died from bird flu since 2003, not counting the latest death. Most of the cases, 103, occurred in Indonesia.
LEBANON: Lebanese government supporters are marking the third anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination, while leading opposition group Hezbollah mourns the recent death of a top commander. Both events are taking place today in the capital Beirut. Tens of thousands gathered in the rain-soaked streets waving Lebanese flags at the rally for Mr. Hariri, whose 2005 assassination sparked anti-Syrian protests that led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
RUSSIA - PUTIN: Russian President Vladimir Putin has again warned that Russian missiles will be pointed at Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Poland if those countries allow U.S. missile defense facilities to be deployed within their borders. Speaking at his last annual news conference before stepping down in May, Mr. Putin also said that Russia did not plan a conflict with the West, and would not point its missiles at any state unless it was forced to do so. Mr. Putin, who is constitutionally barred from running for president again, said he has no reservations about becoming prime minister under Russia's next president.
US POLITICS: Presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton is focusing her campaign on two big contests that she hopes will counter the momentum of her rival Senator Barack Obama, who has won a string of Democratic Party nominating races. Obama has won eight straight nominating contests and is also favored in next week's races in Hawaii and Wisconsin. Clinton has turned her attention towards Texas and Ohio, two states that hold primary elections on March fourth. In a blow to the former first lady's campaign Wednesday, the man who ran her husband's successful election campaign for president in 1992, David Wilhelm, announced his support for Obama.
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