OLYMPIC TORCH: Thousands of police officers are being mobilized to provide security for today's run of the Beijing Olympic torch through the streets of Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. Authorities say the extra forces include 15-hundred naval policemen, at least 12-hundred civilian policemen and three-thousand city workers. Officials want to avoid a repeat of anti-China demonstrations that disrupted relays in London, Paris and San Francisco. The Olympic torch arrived in Buenos Aires Thursday after a flight from San Francisco, and was quickly taken to a secret location. Argentine football (soccer) legend Diego Maradona is scheduled to carry the torch at the opening of the relay.
US - CHINA - TIBET: China has expressed its indignation over a U.S. House of Representatives resolution condemning its crackdown on unrest in Tibet and urging it to talk to the Dalai Lama. Reacting today to the resolution's passage, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called it a "rude interference" in China's internal affairs that seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. She also said U.S. lawmakers had distorted "the history and reality of Tibet" and ignored crimes committed by supporters of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.
DALAI LAMA: The Dalai Lama has arrived in the United States for a two-week visit - the first since his homeland erupted in turmoil. The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader arrived Thursday in (the city of) Seattle, (in the northwest state of) Washington, where he is scheduled to participate in a five-day conference on spirituality which opens today. Speaking Thursday in Japan, the Dalai Lama said he supports the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, despite China's ongoing crackdown on anti-government protesters in Tibet.
CHINA - CORRUPTION: A former high-ranking official in China's Communist Party has been sentenced to 18 years in prison in connection with a pension fund scandal. A court in the northern city of Tianjin sentenced Chen Liangyu today on charges of taking bribes and abusing his power. Chen was the chief party leader in the Chinese financial city of Shanghai when he was arrested in 2006 over revelations that more than 400-million dollars in pension funds were improperly used in other state-owned projects. He is also accused of accepting more than 300-thousand dollars in bribes.
CHINA - TRADE: China says its trade surplus fell nearly 11 percent for the first quarter of 2008. Figures released today by China's customs agency show the country's trade surplus was 41-point-four billion dollars between January and March, compared to 46-point-five billion dollars for the same period in 2007. The agency says imports for the first quarter of 2008 rose more than 28-percent, to more than 264 billion dollars, while exports rose just 21-percent, to nearly 306-billion dollars. Total trade for the period was more than 570-billion dollars, up 24-percent from the same period in 2007.
JAPAN - NOKOR SANCTIONS: Japan has extended economic sanctions against North Korea for another six months. Japan's chief cabinet spokesman (Nobutaka Machimura) says the continuing impasse over Pyongyang's nuclear programs and the fate of abducted Japanese citizens led to today's decision. Tokyo imposed the sanctions in October 2006 after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon. The sanctions ban North Korean imports, and closes Japanese ports to North Korean ships. Pyongyang agreed to scrap its nuclear programs last year in exchange for energy and economic aid as part of the six-nation deal.
US - IRAQ: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he no longer believes the U.S. can reduce troop levels in Iraq to 100-thousand by January next year. Gates originally made the prediction on troop levels last September, but he backed away from the estimate Thursday in testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. President Bush said in a speech Thursday he will suspend troop withdrawals from Iraq when a current round of pullouts is completed in July. The suspension is expected to leave about 140-thousand troops in Iraq.
FRANCE - SOMALIA - PIRATES: French President Nicolas Sarkozy says pirates have released 30 crew members of a French yacht captured off the coast of Somalia a week ago. The president's office issued a statement today saying the hostages were released without incident. In the statement, Mr. Sarkozy thanked the French armed forces and other agencies for enabling a quick and peaceful end to the situation. Pirates seized the 88-meter "Le Ponant" yacht last Friday as it was headed from the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, toward the Mediterranean. At least 30 crew members were on board, including 22 French and several Ukrainians.
ZIMBABWE - ELECTION: The leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party has met with South Africa's president to discuss Zimbabwe's post-election crisis ahead of a regional summit. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change today announced Morgan Tsvangirai met with South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki Thursday. Details of their meeting were not immediately available. Earlier Thursday, the MDC said it will not take part in any run-off election against President Robert Mugabe, saying the party won the March 29th election "hands down".
GERMANY - HITLER ANNIVERSARY: Germany's parliament Thursday solemnly marked the 75th anniversary of the passage of the Enabling Act -- the law that gave Nazi leader Adolf Hitler dictatorial powers. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Koehler attended the remembrance. Many of the lawmakers wore black to mourn the death of German democracy in 1933. Parliament allowed Hitler to issue laws without its approval two months after he was appointed German chancellor, turning Germany into a militaristic police state.
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