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China and Taiwan Launch First Regular Direct Flights Since 1949


TAIWAN - CHINA: Chinese tourists have arrived in Taiwan after a historic direct flight from the southern city of Guangzhou.The plane carrying more than 100 Chinese tourists landed at Taoyuan airport outside Taipei early today. They were greeted by a traditional dragon dance as they disembarked from the airplane. More than 700 Chinese tourists are scheduled to fly today between Taiwan and the Chinese cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai and Xiamen. They will remain on the island for ten days.At a ceremony in Beijing, Wang Yi, the director of China's Taiwan Affairs office, said the flights mark a new beginning in cross-Strait exchanges. The flights are the first regular direct flights since the two rivals split after a 1949 civil war.

NOKOR - NUCLEAR: North Korea says it will not take part in any further negotiations about its nuclear activities until the other five nations involved in the talks fulfill their obligations under a deal reached last year. The isolated regime's foreign ministry issued a statement today saying it had lived up to its end of the bargain by releasing a long-awaited declaration of its nuclear program. Pyongyang followed up the release by demolishing the cooling tower at its Yongbyong nuclear complex in front of foreign television news cameras.North Korea agreed to issue the declaration in an agreement with China, Russia, Japan, the United States and South Korea.

CHINA - RIOTS: Two local officials in southwest China will likely be dismissed in the wake of violent protests last week over the death of a teenage girl.China's official Xinhua news agency says the Communist Party committee in Guizhou province has recommended that Wengan county's public security chief and a local political official be sacked for mishandling the situation.At least 30-thousand people went on a rampage after police released a report saying 17-year-old Li Shufen committed suicide by drowning. The demonstrators accused police of covering up evidence that she had been raped and murdered by relatives of local officials.The rioters torched the Wengan county police station and several government vehicles.

JAPAN - FOOD: Japan says it will donate 50-million dollars in new emergency food aid to developing nations to help with soaring food prices.Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura made the announcement today, days before leaders of the world's eight richest nations hold a two-day summit in the northern city of Hokkaido. The global food crisis is expected to be a top item on the leaders' agenda.Komura says the new 50-million dollar infusion is on top of the 200-million dollars Tokyo has already contributed this year. The aid will be distributed by October.The World Bank says global prices for grain have double over the last two years, while rice prices have more than tripled during the first five months of 2008.

BURMA - FERRY ACCIDENT: Burmese state media say 38 people were killed earlier this week after a ferry boat capsized in the country's Irrawaddy delta.The New Light of Myanmar newspaper says the boat was carrying 82 people when it went down in the Yway river Tuesday. The paper says 44 other passengers were rescued.Burma's Irrawaddy delta was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in early May, leaving more than 130-thousand people dead or missing.

AFGHAN - VIOLENCE: Afghan police say gunmen have killed eight officers at a police post in the country's south.A local police chief says the attack occurred late Thursday in the Panjawi district of Kandahar province. He says the attackers threw a grenade at the post before firing shots.At least one other officer was wounded in the incident, and two are missing.The area is known to be a stronghold for Taliban insurgents, but it is not clear if militants were responsible for this attack. An investigation is under way.In a separate incident, police say a roadside bomb struck a police vehicle in central Ghazni province, killing at least two officers and wounding several others.

INDIA - TRUCKERS: Millions of truck drivers in India have ended their strike after the government agreed to not increase toll taxes and meet other demands.The All India Motor Transport Congress called an end to the strike early today. Some five million vehicles went off the road Wednesday, after last minute talks failed.Truckers were demanding the government reduce road toll and other taxes to compensate for the rising cost of diesel fuel. Soaring global fuel costs forced the government to hike gasoline and diesel prices twice this year by a total of 17 percent. The government faces increasing pressure to curb rising fuel and food prices, with inflation running at a 13-year high.

US POLITICS: The presumptive Democratic Party U.S. presidential nominee, Barack Obama, says he is holding to his position to immediately end U.S. troop involvement in Iraq, despite earlier saying that he may refine his policies. Obama tried to clarify his Iraq policy Thursday by saying that on his first day in office he will instruct the five top U.S. military officers (the Joint Chiefs of Staff) to end the war "responsibly and decisively."He also said he intends to remove U.S. troops from Iraq at a pace that will lead to a total withdrawal in 16 months.But Obama's Republican rival, John McCain, accused him of reversing his position on Iraq.

US - INDEPENDENCE DAY: Americans across the United States are preparing for celebrations today marking Independence Day, which commemorates the birth of the country 232 years ago.On July fourth, 1776 delegates from the 13 original American colonies officially declared independence from Britain.Traditional Independence Day celebrations involve concerts and fireworks displays.Festivities in Washington, DC, will include a July fourth concert on the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol building, and one of the country's largest fireworks shows.President Bush is expected to appear at an Independence Day celebration at Monticello in Virginia. Monticello is the historic home of the third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson -- one of the so-called "founding fathers" of the country.

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