US POLITICS: The U.S. Republican Party is hoping to get its national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota back on schedule today after the opening sessions were scaled down in response to the hurricane situation on the U.S. Gulf Coast.Cindy McCain, the wife of pending presidential nominee John McCain, joined first lady Laura Bush in addressing delegates at Monday's abbreviated session, urging them to put aside partisanship and contribute to relief efforts.Senator McCain himself appeared at an emergency relief center hundreds of kilometers away in Ohio.
GUSTAV: Gustav has been downgraded from a tropical storm to a tropical depression as it
continues across the southern U.S. state of Louisiana.Forecasters at the
National Hurricane Center (in Miami) say Gustav now has maximum sustained
winds of just 55 kilometers an hour. The storm is expected to continue to slow
and lose strength as it moves north and west across western Louisiana and into
the neighboring state of Texas.Forecasters say Gustav will produce
between 15 to 30 centimeters of rain over portions of Louisiana and Texas, as
well as Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma through Thursday.
THAILAND POLITICS: Thailand's army chief says he will not use force against protesters in the
capital of Bangkok.General Anupong Paochinda told a news conference
today that soldiers confronting protesters will not carry
firearms and would try to negotiate a peace.The statement came hours
after Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej declared a state of emergency in the city,
following a deadly clash between groups of rival protesters. Mr. Samak also put
General Anupong in charge of keeping order in the capital.An
announcement broadcast earlier in the day said gatherings of
groups of more than five people are banned.
JAPAN - PRIME MINISTER: Following a surprise resignation of Japan's prime minister Monday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has begun its process of selecting a successor to Yasuo Fukuda. Party leaders met today to discuss a schedule for electing a new party president, who is all but assured of becoming the country's next prime minister. LDP Secretary-General and former Foreign Minister Taro Aso is seen as a frontrunner. Aso narrowly lost to Mr. Fukuda in last year's race for prime minster. Aso noted his qualifications for the job today, but did not directly say whether he would run.
NOKOR AID: The U.N. World Food Program says it needs a half billion dollars over the next 15 months to stave off a famine in North Korea.The WFP's regional director for Asia told reporters in Beijing today that donors should put politics aside and look at the operation from a purely humanitarian point of view.Stalinist North Korea has relied on foreign assistance to feed its population since the mid-1990s. But, the collapse of the Soviet Union, high food prices and tensions with South Korea and Japan have caused food imports to drop. Also, China - the North's primary contributor - has put restrictions on export licenses for grains and flour in order to control domestic inflation.
AUSTRALIA - DROUGHT: Australian officials say drought in the country's main food growing region has worsened, with no end in sight.The Murray-Darling Basin Commission, which monitors water supplies in the east coast region, said today (Tuesday) that the water level entering the Murray River is at a record low.The Commission's chief executive, Wendy Craik, told reporters that the drought is worsening and there is no indication conditions will improve in the immediate future.Weather experts said the system needs an extended period of torrential rains, but that no such pattern is on the horizon.
RUSSIA - AUSTRALIA: An Australian newspaper reports Russia is warning Canberra not to block uranium exports to Moscow over the Georgia conflict."The Sydney Morning Herald" quotes Russian Ambassador Alexander Blokhin as saying both countries will suffer economically if Australia does not go through with a deal to sell uranium to Russia for its nuclear power plants.Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith on Monday warned that if Russia does not withdraw its troops from Georgia, Canberra may refuse to ratify an agreement to sell billions of dollars worth of uranium to Moscow.
RAMADAN: Muslims around the world are beginning to observe the holy month of
Ramadan.Most of the world's Muslims marked the first day of Ramadan on
Monday, but the starting date varies in some countries depending on the sighting
of the crescent moon.Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq and Iran begin observing
the holy month Tuesday, while Libya's Muslims started their observance on
Sunday.During the month, Muslims are expected to abstain from eating,
drinking, smoking and sexual relations from dawn to sunset.After
nightfall, Muslims break the fast with a meal called "iftaar."
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