AFGHANISTAN: The United Nations says it plans to replace more than half of the top
officials involved in overseeing Afghanistan's flawed presidential
election before the November 7th runoff.
U.N. officials say investigators found that 200 of the 380 district
election chiefs in August's presidential vote were linked to polling
irregularities or fraud.
The massive-vote rigging led to a two-month-long political deadlock,
before officials declared Tuesday that the results showed no outright
winner and scheduled a runoff.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his main challenger, former Foreign
Minister Abdullah Abdullah later endorsed the runoff vote and said they
would be ready.
PAKISTAN: Helicopter gunships and ground troops in Pakistan's South Waziristan
tribal region continued to attack militant strongholds for a fifth day
News reports quoting intelligence officials say troops and artillery
fire have been targeting militants in the hometown of the leader of the
Pakistani Taliban (Hakimullah Mehsud).
With the region closed-off to outsiders, and no journalists embedded
with Pakistani troops, there has been no independent confirmation of
the army's or the Taliban's claims.
In the rest of the country, most schools were closed a day after two
suicide bombers attacked the International Islamic University in
Islamabad, killing four people.
IRAN - NUCLEAR: Talks between Iran and three world powers continued Wednesday as they try to work out a deal that will ease tensions over Iran's controversial nuclear program. Diplomats from Iran, Russia, France, and the United States began the third day of talks at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Talks stalled on Tuesday, after Iran expressed resistance to aspects of the proposal, in which it would send most of its low-enriched (below weapons-grade) uranium to Russia and France for further refinement (to be later used as reactor fuel). Iran is particularly opposed to France's proposed role in the deal.
GATES - ASIA: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Washington will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.
Gates made the remarks Wednesday to a group of U.S. and South Korean
military personnel, shortly after arriving in Seoul. He told the troops
the peril posed by the isolated regime has become "even more lethal and
The United States is part of six-nation talks aimed at convincing
Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for
North Korea walked away from the talks last December and formally
withdrew from them in April, after the international community
criticized its launch of a rocket suspected of being a test of
long-range missile technology.
CARTER - ASIA: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is expected in Asia next month to help build homes for the needy in five countries, as part of a charity trip involving thousands of volunteers. The U.S.-based charity Habitat for Humanity announced Tuesday that Mr. Carter and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn, will work on a project building and repairing 166 homes along the Mekong River in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Laos. The group will build 82 houses in Thailand to honor the 82nd birthday of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Mr. Carter said the project will result not only in better housing, but will also bring much-needed attention to the housing plight of many families in that part of the world.
CHINA - XINJIANG: Human Rights Watch says Chinese authorities have secretly detained more
than 40 Uighur men in the western Xinjiang province after a series of
deadly ethnic riots earlier this year.
The New York-based human rights group issued a report on the detentions
Wednesday, based on interviews with residents in the provincial
Witnesses say security forces sealed off entire neighborhoods and
checked men and teenagers for injuries that could possibly have been
sustained in taking part in the rioting.
Authorities also detained male Uighurs who could not explain where they were during the riots.
CHINA - BURMA - TIMBER: An environmental watchdog group says the illegal timber trade between
Burma and China has decreased significantly since its last review in
2005, but more needs to be done to clamp down.
London-based Global Witness said Wednesday that Chinese imports of logs
and sawed wood from Burma fell by 70 percent between 2005 and 2008.
But the environmental group says smugglers are circumventing government
efforts to end the trade by using bribery, false papers, transport by
night and avoidance of checkpoints.
Global Witness says illicit timber smuggling is rapidly destroying Burma's forests.
US - ISRAEL: The United States and Israel are starting a two-week military exercise
Wednesday to test missile defense systems that could be used to thwart
attacks against Israel from Iran.
The Israeli military says the drill will involve about 1,000 U.S. military personnel, and a similar number of Israeli troops.
The exercise, which will simulate missile attacks on Israel, will test interceptor systems based on land and at sea.
Iran has tested missiles that are capable of hitting Israel, and Tehran
has vowed to retaliate against any attack from Israel or the United
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