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Anti-Government March Begins in Pakistan


PAKISTAN - POLITICS: Pakistani lawyers and opposition activists began a four-day, anti-government March Thursday, defying a government crackdown on protesters and a ban on rallies. Pakistani police arrested dozens of demonstraters gathered in Karachi Thursday, just as the nationwide march was set to begin. Crowds also gathered in Quetta and Lahore. On Wednesday, authorities rounded up hundreds of protesters and banned public gatherings in two key provinces (Punjab and Sindh). The march puts protesters on a collision course with the government of President Asif Al Zardari.

NOKOR - SATELLITE: North Korea has notified international organizations of its plans to launch a satellite into space next month and told them about measures they can take to ensure the safety of aircraft and ships. Officials at South Korea's Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs said Thursday that North Korea has informed the International Maritime Organization of its plans to launch what it calls an experimental communications satellite in early April. Officials said North Korea told the organization that the launch would be made in an easterly direction.

US - CHINA: U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the White House Thursday as the two countries try to defuse a naval dispute and focus on stabilizing the global economy. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the incident will be discussed during their meeting, but expects it will not dominate the conversation. The dispute stems from a standoff Sunday in the South China Sea, where U.S officials say Chinese vessels harassed a U.S. Navy surveillance ship. Beijing accused the ship of being on a spying mission.

CHINA - RIGHTS - TIBET: U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says Tibet and human rights are part of a broad range of issues the U.S. is discussing with China. Clinton said she raised the Tibet issue in her talks Wednesday with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Washington. Clinton approved a statement Tuesday expressing deep concern about human rights in Tibet and accusing China of harming its religion, culture and livelihood. The statement came on the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. Earlier Wednesday, China's foreign ministry spokesman rejected the U.S. criticism and accused Washington of interfering in China's affairs.

THAILAND - ASEAN: Thailand has switched the venue for an upcoming summit of regional leaders for a second time due to logistical and security concerns. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry says next month's meeting between leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and its regional allies is being moved from the southern resort island of Phuket to the beach resort of Pattaya. The spokesman says the switch was made after officials realized that many of the hotels on Phuket have already been booked by tourists.

IRAQ - SHOE THROWER: A Baghdad court has sentenced an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush to three years in prison for assaulting a foreign leader. Muntazer al-Zaidi pleaded not guilty to the assault charges when his trial resumed Thursday. He faced up to 15 years in prison. A judge had postponed the trial in February to determine if Mr. Bush was on an official visit during the December incident. Al-Zaidi said last month that the president's talk of "victory," combined with what the journalist called his spiritless smile, proved too much after years of war and destruction following the U.S.-led invasion.

SUDAN - KIDNAP: At least five aid workers from the Belgium branch of Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped in the Darfur region of Sudan. Relief officials say three foreign staff members were among those abducted Wednesday. The kidnappings come a week after the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir expelled 13 foreign aid agencies, including Doctors Without Borders. He issued the order after the International Criminal Court charged him with war crimes. U.N. officials say millions of people will not get adequate food, water or health care without aid agencies' help. The United Nations says the unrest in Sudan has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million. Sudan says the death toll is much lower.

WORLD'S RICHEST: Microsoft founder Bill Gates topped Forbes Magazine's list of the world's richest, in a year that proved that even billionaires are not immune to the global economic slowdown. Forbes released its list of 793 billionaires on Wednesday -- down from more than 1,100 billionaires in 2008. The number of billionaires fell along with their net worth, from more than $4 trillion last year to $2.4 trillion this year. The only billionaire in the top 20 who did not lose money was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Gates topped the list with a net worth of $40 billion.

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