ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israeli forces have restricted travel from the West Bank until Saturday evening in the wake of a deadly attack by a Palestinian gunman inside a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem. Thousands of mourners gathered in Jerusalem today at funeral processions for students killed in Thursday's attack. Witnesses said a gunman entered a crowded room at the rabbinical seminary (Merkaz Harav Yeshiva) and opened fire with a rife, killing eight people and injuring 35 others. An Israeli police spokesman (Mickey Rosenfeld) said the attacker was killed on the scene.
IRAQ: Iraqi security officials have raised the death toll from Thursday's twin bomb attack in Baghdad to at least 68. Police said more than 120 others were wounded when the bombings went off within minutes of each other, destroying shops and cars in the Karrada neighborhood in the Iraqi capital. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. A senior U.S. military officer in Baghdad, Colonel Allen Batschelet, described the attack (in a statement) as a senseless act of violence directed against the Iraqi people. The attacks occurred despite an overall drop in violence since the U.S. military sent 30-thousand extra troops to Iraq last year.
US - THAILAND - ARMS DEALER: Thailand says it will investigate a Russian man for illegal arms deals before it deports him to the United States where he is accused of trying to sell weapons to a rebel group in Colombia. Authorities brought Viktor Bout before reporters today in Bangkok, a day after he was arrested at a luxury hotel. U.S. officials want Bout extradited after federal prosecutors in New York charged him with conspiring to provide material support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
CHINA - DARFUR - OLYMPICS: China's special envoy to Sudan says attempts by international activists to link the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games to the crisis in Darfur are unreasonable. Speaking to reporters today in Beijing, Liu Guijin says the Sudanese government could do more to, in his words, "show its sincerity." But Liu accuses Darfur rebel groups of continuing to attack Sudanese villages and police stations, in an effort to gain greater influence in negotiations with Khartoum. Liu says he has paid four visits to Sudan to talk to Sudanese government leaders about reaching a lasting diplomatic solution to the crisis.
AUSTRALIA - SOKOR - SEX:
Australian police say they have carried out a series of raids in Sydney that freed 10 South Korean women allegedly forced into sexual slavery. Police and immigration officials say Thursday's raids broke up a multi-million dollar sex trafficking ring. Two men and three women will face charges including human trafficking and deceptively recruiting for sexual services that carry prison sentences of up to 25 years. The alleged leader of the group is a 46-year-old Australian woman.
US NAVY - HONG KONG: A Hong Kong newspaper says the United States will seek permission for a naval warship to visit Hong Kong in April, five months after China blocked it from entry. The South China Morning Post says officials at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong will pass on a request from the Pentagon to allow the USS Kitty Hawk and its battle group to dock there. China barred the the aircraft carrier from entering Hong Kong waters last November for a planned stopover during the American Thanksgiving holiday. Beijing later reversed its decision, but the vessel and its support vessels were already on their way back to their home ports.
MALAYSIA - ELECTION: A rally staged by Malaysia's opposition party drew thousands of people Thursday, two days before crucial parliamentary elections. As many as 25-thousand people attended a rally by the Democratic Action Party in the northern state of Penang. DAP and other opposition parties are hoping to attract support from Malaysia's minority ethnic Chinese and Indians, drawn away from the multi-ethnic National Front coalition which has ruled the country since independence in 1957. Ethnic minorities have complained of increasing discrimination by Malaysia's majority Muslims in programs that favor Muslims in government jobs, business and education.
BRAZIL - LAW BOY: An eight year old boy has passed a law school entrance exam in Brazil, causing shock among the country's lawyers and prompting a federal investigation. The Brazilian Bar Association said the boy's achievement should serve as a warning about the quality of some of the nation's schools. The law school has refused to allow the boy to enroll, saying he must finish high school first. His mother said the child is not a genius. She described him as a normal boy who is very dedicated and likes to read and study.
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