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US Lawmakers to Hear Testimony on Obama Afghanistan Strategy Thursday


US - AFGHANISTAN: Key members of U.S. President Barack Obama's national security team will appear before congressional lawmakers for a second straight day Thursday to testify about the president's new Afghanistan strategy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer questions about Mr. Obama's plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to engage Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN - NATO: NATO foreign ministers are gathering in Brussels for two days of talks Thursday and Friday that are expected to focus on Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday Washington anticipates a significant commitment of additional forces by its allies, as well funding to underscore their shared stake in the Afghan conflict. Clinton did not say how many more troops she expects U.S. allies to contribute, but diplomats say Washington is asking its international partners for up to 10,000 more troops.

SYRIA - BLAST: Syrian officials say a massive explosion ripped through a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims in the capital, Damascus, killing at least three people. Syria's interior minister said the blast was not a terrorist attack. The incident took place Thursday in the Sayyida Zeinab quarter of Damascus, which features a Shi'ite shrine frequented by Iranians. Media reports say the explosion occurred while the bus was refueling at a gas station near the shrine. Police are investigating the incident.

SOMALIA VIOLENCE: An explosion has ripped through a hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 18 people, including three government ministers. Witnesses say the blast struck during a university graduation ceremony being held at the Shamo Hotel Thursday. Officials say the ministers for health (Qamar Aden Ali), education (Ahmen Abdulahi Waayeel) and higher education (Ibrahim Hassan Addow) were among those killed. Somalia has endured 18 years of chaos and conflict since the fall of the last stable central government in 1991.

WHITE HOUSE - PARTY: The White House is streamlining its screening process following an embarrassing incident in which a couple gained access to the Obama administration's first state dinner last week without an invitation. In a memorandum Wednesday, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina said a review concluded that the White House bears some responsibility for not helping the Secret Service screen guests. He said for all future events, a staff member will be present at checkpoints to make sure only invited guests gain entry.

CHINA - XINJIANG: A court in China's western Xinjiang region has announced that five more people have been sentenced to death for murder and other crimes committed during riots in the remote region in July. China's official Xinhua news agency says the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi also sentenced two others to life in prison. Last month, China announced that nine Uighurs had been executed for taking part in July's ethnic rioting that left nearly 200 people dead.

NORTH KOREA - CURRENCY: Shops and restaurants are reportedly closed in North Korea as citizens undertake the exchange of old bank notes for new ones, at a rate of 100 to one. A report from China's official Xinhua news agency said embassies in North Korea were given a verbal notice Tuesday about the revaluation. The amount people can change from the old currency to the new is limited, so the move in effect wipes out the savings of North Koreans who had built up some cash reserves. Some experts say the measure was taken to curb inflation and clamp down on free markets.

PHILIPPINES - MASSACRE: The Philippine government is replacing at least 1,000 police officers in the southern province of Maguindanao where 57 people were killed last month in an election-related massacre. Philippine police officials say the pullout is meant to pave the way for an impartial investigation because a number of police officers in the province have been linked to the killings. Also Wednesday, United Nations human rights experts said investigations into the massacre should be the start of a major reform process.

Listen to our World News for details.

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