US - HMONG - OBAMA: Hmong activists in the U.S. are urging U.S. President Barack Obama to alleviate the plight of ethnic Hmong refugees being held in a detention camp in Thailand. Several activists will travel to Capitol Hill today to speak to lawmakers and congressional staff about the thousands of Hmong who have fled Laos to seek political asylum in third countries. Thailand has slowly been shipping some of them back to Laos. Human rights groups warn that Hmong migrants are genuinely in danger of persecution because many fought alongside U.S. forces in the Vietnam war. The activists have also called on the United Nations to monitor the situation in the refugee camps.
US ECONOMY: U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Congress to pass his economic
stimulus bill and rejecting criticism from Republican lawmakers over
its size and impact on the large national deficit.
Speaking before a group of House Democratic lawmakers Thursday at a retreat in Williamsburg,
Virginia, Mr. Obama said he inherited a large deficit from his
predecessor, George W. Bush, "wrapped in a big bow."
The president rejected Republican demands for large tax cuts in the
bill, saying those methods caused the current economic crisis. He also
mocked critics who denounced the package as nothing more than a
IRAQ: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi leaders about Saturday's provincial election.
The U.N. chief met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a previously
unannounced visit, a day after poll results indicated a solid victory
for Mr. Maliki's coalition.
Iraqi and U.N. spokesmen said Mr. Ban was there to show the United
Nations' support for Iraq and to congratulate Iraqis on holding a
largely peaceful election.
U.N. officials were heavily involved in the planning of the poll, which
was the most violence-free vote Iraq has had since the U.S.-led
invasion in 2003.
CAMBODIA - CORRUPTION: An international anti-corruption group says Cambodia's elite are
jeopardizing the future of the impoverished country by profiting from
its natural resources.
Britain-based Global Witness says in a report Thursday that
a small group of people is exploiting Cambodia's oil and mineral
industries, while international donors ignore what is happening. The
report says this group is making millions of dollars and includes Prime
Minister Hun Sen, military commanders and well-connected businessmen.
It also warns that corruption and nepotism in the allocation and
management of critical public assets is harming the impoverished people
and must be stopped.
SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's military says hundreds more civilians have fled from the northern war zone to government-controlled areas, as the country's leaders vow to press on with their offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels. A military spokesman said more than 16-hundred civilians crossed out of rebel-held territory on Thursday, and another 600 were crossing over early today. The office of President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he promised U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over the phone Thursday that Sri Lanka will protect the civilian population in the north as it continues its military push against the separatist rebels.
US - GUANTANAMO: Pentagon officials say a U.S. military judge has dropped charges
against a Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of participating in the
deadly 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.
A Pentagon spokesman told reporters late
Thursday that the judge withdrew the charges against Saudi suspect Abd
al-Rahim al-Nashiri without prejudice. He said that means the charges
could be refiled later.
U.S. President Barack Obama had asked for all legal proceedings at the
U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to be suspended as part
of his plan to close the controversial prison within a year.
US - CENTRAL ASIA: Kyrgyzstan says its decision to shut down a U.S. military base is
The statement from a Kyrgyz government spokesman today is
likely to disappoint Washington, where officials had hoped for a deal
to retain the only U.S. base in Central Asia.
The Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan plays a major logistical role in
supplying U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced plans to shut the base on
Tuesday in Moscow, shortly after securing two billion dollars in loans
and aid from Russia.
RUSSIA - EU: A senior European Union delegation meets with Russian leaders today in Moscow, weeks after a natural gas cutoff further soured
The Associated Press quotes European Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso as saying it is urgent to get EU-Russian relations to work by
acknowledging the differences and building up trust.
Mr. Barroso and a team of senior officials plan to meet with Russian
President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
They are not expected to dwell on last month's natural gas cut off, but
do plan to talk about energy matters along with trade, global warming,
and the global economic crisis.
Listen to our World News in details.