ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel has rejected an immediate 48-hour cease-fire with Hamas, saying
it will push ahead with its military assault on the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials say Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defense and
foreign ministers made the decision after discussing the
French-proposed truce during a meeting overnight.
Israeli war planes continued their assault on Hamas targets in the Gaza
Strip for a fifth-day today, despite mounting international
pressure for an end to the violence.
Officials say the missiles hit Hamas government buildings and tunnels
used to smuggle food and weapons into Gaza from Egypt.
GAZA - WORLD REACTION: The Arab League is holding an emergency meeting in Egypt to discuss
Israel's military campaign against Hamas, which has killed nearly 400
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The group's secretary-general, Amr Moussa urged the Palestinians to
raise the issue with the United Nations Security Council.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, also told the
meeting in Cairo today that a solution to the conflict
would not be achieved until the rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and
Other world powers, including the United States, are appealing for an
INDONESIA - ACTIVIST DEATH: An Indonesian court has acquitted a former senior intelligence official
charged with ordering the 2004 murder of a human rights activist.
Muchdi Purwoprandjono was facing a 15-year sentence for the death of
Munir Said Thalib, who was poisoned by arsenic during a flight from
Jakarta to Amsterdam on Indonesia's Garuda Airlines. Muchdi is a former
deputy chief of the National Intelligence Agency.
A Garuda pilot was sentenced to 20 years in prison for serving the
arsenic to Munir. A former Garuda chief was sentenced to one year in
prison in connection with the murder.
THAILAND - PROTESTERS: Supporters of deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra are vowing
to continue their protests after the new year to force the government
to call fresh elections.
The pro-Thaksin demonstrators dispersed Tuesday after blocking
parliament for two days. The demonstrators forced new Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva to deliver his first major policy address from
Thailand's Foreign Ministry.
The Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship is demanding Mr. Abhisit
dissolve parliament and call general elections. They are angry over a
court ruling that dissolved the previous government of Prime Minister
Somchai Wongsawat, a Thaksin ally.
CHINA - TAINTED MILK: Chinese state media say the former head of the Chinese company at the
center of a deadly tainted milk scandal is on trial today.
The official Xinhua news agency says the trial of Sanlu group's
chairwoman Tian Wenhua and three other executives has begun in the city
of Shijiazhuang, where the company has its headquarters in the northern
province of Hebei. Prosecutors accuse the executives of producing and
selling fake or
substandard products. Authorities arrested the four officials in
September, after inspectors discovered the company was selling milk
tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.
KOREAS - DEFECTORS: South Korea's intelligence agency says four North Koreans have defected from the communist country by boat.
Anonymous sources say the defectors, all family members, entered South
Korean waters on its western coast Tuesday. Yonhap news agency says the
family traveled from the North's port city of Haeju, and was discovered
by the South Korean navy.
The sources say the family is being questioned by authorities.
More than 12 thousand North Koreans have defected to the South since
the end of the Korean War in 1953. North Koreans have suffered from
chronic food shortages.
LAOS - NOKOR - DEFECTORS: A South Korean news report says five North Korean defectors in Laos are
now under the protection of the South Korean embassy.
A report by the Yonhap news agency Tuesday quotes a Foreign
Ministry official as saying the five will soon be transferred to South
Korea. The North Korean defectors were previously being held by Laotian
authorities for entering the country illegally. Reports say two of the
defectors -- a husband and wife -- had threatened to commit suicide if
they were returned to North Korea and were receiving hospital treatment
before making it to the embassy.
ZIMBABWE - RIGHTS: A Zimbabwe court has ordered 16 human rights activists to remain in
jail pending a Supreme Court hearing on accusations they plotted to
overthrow the government.
The magistrate did not rule on the charges today, but said Jestina Mukuko of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, and
her colleagues, should remain in custody.
The activists are accused of recruiting, or trying to recruit, people
to undergo military training to topple President Robert Mugabe's
Two other activists facing lesser charges were released.
NEW YEAR: Residents in Sydney, Australia are gathering at the city's famous
landmark to lead worldwide celebrations marking
New Year's Day 2009 tonight. Officials expect millions of spectators to gather
at the Sydney Harbour
to witness a multi-million dollar fireworks display entitled "Creation"
at the stroke of midnight local time (1300 GMT). The city's creative
director, Rhoda Roberts, says theme of the show will express hope for a
new beginning in the coming year.
Many people around the world are eager to say goodbye to 2008, which
has been marred by the global economic meltdown.
Listen to our World News for details.