US WAR FUNDING: The U.S. Senate has approved a $91.3 billion war spending bill that
will pay for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but deny
funds to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
Senators passed the measure late Thursday with a vote of 86 to 3. Part
of the money would go to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, a
priority of President Barack Obama. But the denial of Guantanamo funds
could cause conflict with the president, who has vowed to close the
facility by the beginning of next year.
PAKISTAN: The United Nations says it needs an additional $454 million in
humanitarian aid for the nearly two million people displaced by
Pakistan's military offensive against Taliban militants.
An urgent U.N. appeal issued Friday called for "generous support" from
the international community to help civilians fleeing the conflict in
In a statement, acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja
said "the scale of this displacement is extraordinary in terms of size
and speed, and has caused incredible suffering."
SOMALIA: Fierce fighting in Somalia's capital Mogadishu has killed at least
seven people as government forces tried to drive Islamist insurgents
out of the city.
Government forces attacked the hardline Islamist rebels early Friday. A
journalist from a local radio station, Radio Shabelle, as well as
several civilians were among those killed in the fighting.
Media reports indicate government troops recaptured strategic areas of
the capital that had been taken by insurgents, but that the insurgents
are also pushing back.
BURMA - SUU KYI: Burma's foreign minister claims anti-government forces orchestrated a
bizarre visit by an American to the home of opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi to embarrass the government.
The state-run newspaper Friday
quotes Minister Nyan Win as saying that in his opinion the incident was
made to intensify international and domestic pressure on Burma's
The term anti-government forces appears to refer to Aung San Suu Kyi's
National League for Democracy and pro-democracy groups overseas.
CHINA - SLAVERY: Chinese state media say authorities have arrested 10 suspects and freed
32 mentally handicapped people who were being forced to work in brick
kilns in eastern China.
The official Xinhua news agency reports that up to 80 policemen raided
the two kilns in Anhui province late last month and arrested a kiln
boss surnamed Zhang and nine others suspected of holding the workers.
Xinhua quotes police as saying the 10 are suspected of beating the workers and treating them like slaves.
INDIA - POLITICS: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to be sworn in for a second
term Friday, amid a dispute with one of his coalition partners over
posts in his new cabinet.
The 76-year-old economist will take the oath of office later in the
day, with his Congress party having won a surprisingly decisive victory
in recent parliamentary elections. Congress lawmakers and their
coalition partners formally re-elected him to the post earlier this
AUSTRALIA - FLOODS: Authorities in Australia's southeastern New South Wales state began
evacuating thousands of people from the town of Lismore Friday as
flooding threatens to inundate parts of the town.
Local authorities say floodwaters in the town of 27,000 are expected to peak by midday, threatening protective levies.
The region has been hit by torrential rain over the past two days from
the same weather system that lashed neighboring Queensland state
earlier this week.
US - HURRICANE OUTLOOK: U.S. government meteorologists predict between nine and 14 serious Atlantic storms will form this year.
According to forecastsissued Thursday by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, between four and seven storms
are expected to become hurricanes, with one to three likely to be a
NOAA says these numbers indicate that the 2009 hurricane season --
which lasts from June first through the end of November -- will be near
CLOSER - CAMBODIA: A Cambodian man who tried to auction off a pair of shoes he claims
belonged to former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot has attracted only one
bid -- 790, 000 fake U.S. dollars.
The seller, Nhem En, was a photographer at the Khmer Rouge prison
outside Phnom Penh where thousands of people died under Pol Pot's
communist regime, which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
The Phnom Penh Post reports that the purported "bidder,"
Pok Leak Reasey, lost eight family members in the notorious Tuol Sleng
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