BURMA: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Burmese government's obstruction of international aid has cost tens of thousands of lives. At a security forum in Singapore today, Gates charged that Burma had not allowed U.S. military ships and airplanes to deliver relief supplies to victims of Cyclone Nargis. He said Indonesia and Bangladesh had granted approval for similar assistance after other natural disasters. His comments follow reports Friday that Burma's military government is forcing victims of the cyclone that swept across the country four weeks ago to leave refugee camps and return to their destroyed villages.
CHINA - QUAKE: Chinese authorities have been evacuating people from an area in southwestern Sichuan province threatened by a so-called "quake lake." The official Xinhua news agency says nearly 200-thousand people living downstream from the swelling Tangjiashan lake have been moved to higher ground, as of this morning. More than a million people could be at risk if the lake overflows as a result of flooding and strong aftershocks. Separately, Xinhua says relief workers handling the Tangjiashan lake situation began to evacuate by helicopter today Emergency personnel have been building a channel to divert water from the lake formed when the May 12th earthquake caused a landslide that blocked a river.
NOKOR - MISSILES: South Korea says North Korea has fired three short-range missiles off its west coast. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said today that the missiles were fired Friday into the Yellow Sea off Jeungsan County, about 40 kilometers west of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. Quoting a government source, Yonhap said the testing was part of a military training exercise involving ship-to-ship missiles with a range of 46 kilometers. The North's navy fired three ship-to-ship missiles on March 28th in what was then described by the South Korean government as part of a regular military exercise in the waters off the peninsula's west coast.
US POLITICS: Officials of the US Democratic Party meet in Washington later today to attempt to resolve a dispute over primary votes cast in the states of Michigan and Florida -- votes that could play an important role in deciding the party's nominee for president. The party disqualified the results of votes in Florida and Michigan because the two states defied party rules and held their primaries in January instead of later in the year. Senator Hillary Clinton, who is trailing Senator Barack Obama in the delegate count, overwhelmingly won the elections in Michigan and Florida, and wants to have those original results stand.
IRAQ: French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has made a surprise trip to Iraq for two days of talks. Kouchner arrived in Nasiriyah today, hours after the southeastern city was hit a rocket attack by militants. He is expected to meet with Iraq's vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi. Kouchner is also expected to meet with other senior Iraqi officials and open a new French diplomatic office in the northern city of Irbil. The French Foreign Ministry says the visit is part of France's effort to reengage Iraq and offer help in the rebuilding process. In another development, U.S. led forces in Baghdad said today they have captured a senior leader of what they called a "Special Groups criminal ring."
THAILAND - PROTEST: Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej says he will crack down on an anti-government protest that has been going on in Bangkok for a week. In a national television address today, Mr. Samak said if protesters do not move from grounds near Government House, he will call on police and the military to end the demonstration. Mr. Samak blamed leaders of the opposition People's Alliance for Democracy of breaking the law by blocking streets and of damaging the country. PAD members have vowed to bring down Mr. Samak's government, which was formed after elections in December.
BURMA - REBELS: Burmese officials say ethnic Shan rebels set fire to a sawmill and slashed eight workers to death in northeastern Burma. The state-run "New Light of Myanmar" newspaper said today that the attack by the Shan State Army, one of several ethnic insurgency groups in Burma, occurred Wednesday. The paper said about 25 insurgents raided Maukmai Township Wednesday afternoon and captured nine sawmill workers and a village official. Eight workers were beaten and killed, but one escaped to get help. The report said government troops are pursuing the rebels, who are still holding the village official.
US - POLYGAMY: A tentative deal that would have returned more than 400 children taken from members of a polygamist religious group in the (southwestern) U.S. state of Texas back to their parents is on hold after a state judge refused to sign off on the agreement. During a court hearing Friday, attorneys for the families objected when the judge wanted to impose a number of restrictions on the agreement they reached with state child welfare officials earlier in the day. The judge then said the agreement would have to be signed by all the mothers who sued the state to get their children back.
HONDURAS PLANE CRASH: Officials in Honduras say a jetliner ran off the runway onto a street in the capital Friday, killing four people and injuring 65 others. Authorities says the Grupo TACA jetliner was carrying 140 people when it arrived at the capital's Toncontin airport on the third and final leg of a Los Angeles to San Salvador to Tegucigalpa route. Officials say the Airbus A-320 jetliner ran off the end of the runway and skidded to a stop on a city street, crashing into several cars. The pilot and two passengers were killed. The fourth fatality was a person in a car struck by the plane. Earlier reports had five fatalities.
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