US POLITICS: U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton is promising to rally her supporters behind rival Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee, after deciding to suspend her own White House bid. Clinton's campaign says she will hold an event in Washington Saturday to thank her supporters and officially endorse Obama. In an e-mail to her supporters sent out today, Clinton says her differences with the Illinois senator were small compared to those with Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.
BURMA: Four U.S. warships have departed from the waters off Burma's coast after being denied permission by the country's military government to deliver relief supplies to the victims of last month's deadly cyclone. The USS Essex and its three support ships sailed away today after three weeks docked off the Burmese coast. The ships were filled with 22 helicopters capable of delivering tons of supplies to the storm-ravaged Irrawaddy delta. Burmese state media have said the government rejected the U.S. helicopters because it feared an invasion.
CHINA - QUAKE: The U.S. Geological Survey says it has detected a strong aftershock in China's earthquake-battered Sichuan province. Today's aftershock registered a five-point-three magnitude, and was located 65 kilometers west of the town of Guangyuan. The aftershock comes as Chinese officials have been sounding warnings about rising water levels of a so-called "quake lake" formed by last month's deadly earthquake. The official Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday (quoting Chen Lei, minister of water resources) that Tangjiashan lake's waters will likely continue to rise over the next two days, as rainfall is expected through Friday.
SKOREA - POLITICS: Opposition lawmakers in South Korea are boycotting the new parliamentary session due to the government's plans to resume imports of U.S.-produced beef. The legislative chamber was nearly half-empty when the new National Assembly opened today in Seoul. The absence of opposition lawmakers effectively kept the new parliament from officially convening. The boycott is another political burden for new conservative President Lee Myung-bak and his ruling Grand National Party. The party suffered a heavy defeat in Wednesday's local by-elections, winning just nine of the 52 seats being contested.
INDIA - FUEL PRICES: Strikes have crippled three Indian states, following the government's decision to raise domestic fuel prices for the second time this year. Protesters in the eastern state of West Bengal today blocked traffic while shops, schools and government offices shut down. Officials in the West Bengal capital of Kolkata also reported flight and train delays. Similar strikes have paralyzed the states of Kerala and Tripura. All three states are run by communist parties, which called for a week-long protest. They hope the strikes push the national government to repeal the hikes.
UN FOOD SUMMIT: Delegates at the United Nations food summit in Rome are working late into the night to reach an agreement on how to ease the crisis caused by high food prices. A draft of the summit's final declaration obtained by the Associated Press calls for stepped up food production, reduced trade restrictions and more research on the contentious issue of biofuels. Delegates will wrap up their three-day food summit later today. The United Nations says it will take 15 to 20-billion dollars each year to stem the tide of soaring food prices that have pushed millions of the world's poorest people toward the brink of starvation.
US - TRAFFICKING REPORT: The United States lists Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan among the world's worst countries on combating human trafficking. The U.S. State Department published the list Wednesday in its annual human trafficking report (to Congress). The report evaluated the efforts of 170 countries to eliminate the trafficking of people for both forced labor and sexual exploitation. The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines combating trafficking in terms of prevention, punishment and victim protection.
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