CHINA - QUAKE: Emergency workers in China's southwestern Sichuan province are working frantically to drain a so-called "quake lake" formed by this month's deadly earthquake in the region. Authorities fear the Tangjiashan lake will overflow as a result of flooding and strong aftershocks, sending tons of water on the people living below. More than 150-thousand people have been evacuated from the area. China's official Xinhua news agency reported earlier today that authorities in Mianyang city had issued an evacuation order for more than one million people living downstream of the lake.
BURMA: The World Health Organization and partner agencies are launching a multi-million dollar effort to assist cyclone-ravaged areas of Burma. WHO said Thursday that the funds will be spent over the next six months to rebuild Burma's healthcare system -- 50-percent of which it says was destroyed by the May third cyclone. The effort will also be aimed at combatting communicable diseases, which threaten an estimated two-point-four million people still in need of water, food and medical attention. WHO officials say 28-million dollars will be needed to carry out the operation.
THAILAND - POLITICS: A Thai government minister has resigned amid allegations that he insulted the country's beloved monarchy. Jakrapob Penkair, a minister attached to the office of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, stepped down today at a press conference in Bangkok. Thai authorities say they have enough evidence that Penkair committed "lese majeste," or insults against a sovereign, during a speech last year about the 2006 bloodless military coup that toppled ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Penkair is a close ally of Mr. Thaksin. Penkair denies the charges, and says he is stepping down to remove any pressure off Mr. Samak from the military.
PHILIPPINES - US: The White House says Philippine President Gloria Arroyo will meet with U.S. President George Bush next month in Washington. A White House statement released Thursday says the two leaders will meet on June 24th to discuss advancing cooperation on a range of issues. It says the agenda will include such issues as food security, Burma, defense reform, counter-terrorism and regional economic integration. The United States recently pledged to help provide the Philippines with as much rice as it needs. The Philippines is the world's largest importer of rice, which has nearly doubled in price in the past year.
WORLD FOOD: The World Bank says it is boosting its efforts to fight the global food crisis by providing an extra one-point-two billion dollars in grants and loans. The announcement Thursday says the aid includes 200-million dollars in grants to help vulnerable people in the poorest nations. The poverty-fighting agency also says it is raising its support for agriculture and food aid next year by two billion dollars (to a total of six billion). The increase means agricultural lending in Africa will almost double to 800 million dollars, and Latin America will also get a major boost. Earlier, a report from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization said high food prices may continue for years.
US - CIA - TERRORISM: CIA Director Michael Hayden says al-Qaida is losing influence in the Middle East and is on the defensive in other parts of the world. Hayden told "The Washington Post" newspaper that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is losing the ability to exploit the U.S.-led war in Iraq to recruit more members. A CIA study two years ago conclucded the war had become a propaganda and marketing tool for the terrorist group. Hayden cautioned that al-Qaida remains a serious threat but said it has suffered a "near strategic defeat" in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
NEPAL: Nepal's government has formally ordered King Gyanendra to leave the royal palace within the next two weeks. Officials say the order was delivered to the palace today, just two days after Nepal's Constituent Assembly voted overwhelmingly (560 to four) to abolish the 239-year-old monarchy. Security around the palace has been increased after at least five people were injured when they clashed with police Thursday. Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd demanding that the former king leave immediately. Government officials had gone to the palace earlier to take down the flag of the royal family and replace it with a national flag.
SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's military says it has captured a Tamil Tiger rebel base following three days of heavy fighting. A defense ministry spokesman said today seven rebels and one government soldier were killed during the assault on what he called Munagam Base, about six kilometers north of the front lines (in the Welioya region). The military says at least four other Tamil rebels were killed in fighting Thursday in the northern Vavuniya and Mannar regions. Tamil officials were not available to comment on the report. Thursday, the military said it sank four rebel boats off the island's northern coast, killing at least eight fighters.
EUROPE - FUEL PROTESTS: Thousands of Spanish fishermen handed out more than 20-tons of fresh fish to passers-by today as part of a protest against escalating fuel prices. The demonstrators assembled outside the Environment, Agriculture and Fishing Ministry where they threatened to follow their French colleagues example and stay on land until they received some relief from high fuel costs. The protests have been spreading across Europe In France, riot police were called in Thursday to remove blockades by fishermen at several oil depots. Police also removed several groups of strikers from other industries, including truckers, from fuel depots near Marseilles.
STONEHENGE: New archeological research shows Stonehenge, the massive, enigmatic stone circle on England's Salisbury Plain, served as an ancient cemetery for hundreds of years. Cremation remains excavated from the site date back four-thousand-years and indicate that up to 240 people were buried there. A team of British archaeologists, supported by the National Geographic Society, reports people were buried from the beginning of Stonehenge, and continued for at least 500 years. The purpose of the Stonehenge has been widely debated by scholars.
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