CHINA - TAINTED MILK: A Chinese court has sentenced two people to death and two others to
life in prison for their roles in the production and sale of tainted
milk that killed six infants.
Thursday's sentences are the first to be handed down in China in
connection with the scandal, which sickened almost 300-thousand
children last year.
One of the two men sentenced to death by a court in northern Hebei
province's Shijiazhuang city is Zhang Yujun. Zhang was found guilty of
producing a powder containing an industrial chemical that was added to
US GUANTANAMO: Aides to President Barack Obama say he will sign an executive order
today to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba
within one year.
The order calls for the transfer or release of the 250 terror suspects
held at the facility. It calls for a review of all the detainees to
determine how to prosecute those that may have committed crimes.
Mr. Obama is also expected to issue another order designed to end the
use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. agents.
US POLITICS - KENNEDY: New York media are reporting that Caroline Kennedy, daughter of slain
U.S. president John F. Kennedy, is withdrawing her name from
consideration for the New York Senate seat left vacant by Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton.
New York Governor David Paterson will appoint Clinton's successor. He is expected to announce his decision Saturday.
It is not clear what spurred Kennedy's decision to withdraw, after declaring her interest in the seat late last year.
As a child, Caroline Kennedy lived in the White House from 1961 until
her father's assassination in 1963.
ASIA - ECONOMY: Asia's major economies reported more setbacks today as a result of weakening global demand for their exports.
China says its economy slowed sharply in the last quarter of 2008,
growing by just six-point-eight percent from a year earlier. In the
previous quarter, the Chinese economy grew nine percent.
China also says its economic growth for all of 2008 slowed to nine percent, ending a five-year streak of double-digit gains.
South Korea says its economy shrank five-point-six percent in the last
quarter of 2008 compared to the previous quarter.
CHINA - HEALTH REFORM: China's State Council says the country will spend more than 120-billion
dollars over the next three years to improve the health care system.
The State Council said the money will be spent on improving
the basic medical insurance system and reforming public hospitals.
Chinese public hospitals are often criticized for their high fees, lack
of access and poor doctor services, and there is a growing public anger
about the state of the health care system.
The council said that, between now and 2011, the government wants most
of the population to be covered by basic health insurance.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to pursue Middle East peace in
phone calls to Israeli and Palestinian leaders Wednesday, shortly after
Israel completed its troop withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials say Mr. Obama told Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas that he hoped to work as partners in achieving peace. Mr. Abbas'
Palestinian Authority was ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said the Israeli leader
told President Obama he hoped efforts by Israel, Egypt, the United
States, and Europe to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza would
PAKISTAN - UK - AL-QAIDA: Pakistani officials say security forces are questioning a suspected
al-Qaida militant arrested for his alleged involvement in the London
terrorist attacks of July 2005.
The officials, who asked not to be named, told Western news agencies
that Zabi ul-Taifi was arrested Wednesday along with six fellow
militants in a raid outside the northwestern city of Peshawar.
They said Taifi is a Saudi national wanted in connection to the July
7th, 2005, terrorist attacks on London's mass transit system.
The four coordinated bombings killed 52 commuters.
SRI LANKA: The Sri Lankan military says it has captured what appears to have been
the Tamil Tiger rebels' main operations center in the north.
A military official said today that soldiers
found detailed maps of the military's deployments and rebel positions
in an empty building in the Mullaittivu district.
He also said troops found briefing rooms and an underground bunker in
the building, but rebels had removed most of their equipment before the
army moved in.
Tamil Tiger rebels were unavailable for comment.
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