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Laos Ready to Host Southeast Asia Games


RUSSIA - NIGHTCLUB FIRE: Russian authorities have detained the owner and the manager of a nightclub where 102 people were killed in a fire early Saturday. Officials say the two were taken into custody for violating fire safety rules at the Lame Horse nightclub in Perm. The club caught fire when its plastic ceiling was ignited by so-called '"cold fireworks," which usually have lower temperatures than conventional fireworks. At least 134 people were also injured in the blaze. Video from inside the club shows the ceiling starting to burn. Club patrons appeared to not immediately realize the facility was on fire, but once they did, they are seen mobbing an exit.

PAKISTAN VIOLENCE: Pakistani police say an accidental explosion in a commercial district of the northwestern city of Peshawar has killed at least three people. Although initial reports said the blast came from a car bomb, police officials later said it was accidental, and perhaps caused by paint stored in a shop. On Friday, gunmen attacked a mosque near Pakistan's army headquarters in Rawalpindi, killing 36 people, including nine military officers. Police say four attackers threw grenades and opened fire after Friday morning prayers, before two of them detonated suicide vests. The mosque is in a high-security area dominated by Pakistani military personnel.

CLIMATE CONFERENCE: U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to attend the closing of the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, because of what the White House sees as progress toward a "meaningful" deal. President Obama had originally planned to visit Copenhagen at the beginning of the meeting, but on Friday his spokesman said he would delay the trip until the end of the conference when other world leaders will attend. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday the president believes U.S. leadership would be "most productive" at the end of the conference on December 18.

TAIWAN ELECTION: Voters in Taiwan cast ballots Saturday in local elections seen as the first test for Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou's government. Gains by Mr. Ma's Chinese Nationalist Party in the elections for local officials could strengthen the president's mandate and add momentum to his efforts to broker peace with the mainland through trade deals. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which held the presidency from 2000 to 2008, supports Taiwan's formal independence from China. Mr. Ma's government came under fire for its handling of Typhoon Morakot in August and over a decision to resume imports of U.S. beef products, despite health concerns.

THAILAND - KING: Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, appeared in public Saturday for the first time in more than a month, to attend a ceremony marking his 82nd birthday. The king left Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital in a wheelchair and waved at thousands of well-wishers dressed in pink. In remarks to dignitaries gathered at Bangkok's royal palace, King Bhumibol called for unity in a country that has been rocked by anti-government protests. Before returning to the hospital, he said his well-being could be achieved with the nation's stability, prosperity and peace.

LAOS - SEA GAMES: Officials in Laos say the country is ready to host the Southeast Asia Games from December 9 to the 18. This year will be the first time the communist state will host the games since it co-founded them 50 years ago. Laos poured millions of dollars into building a national sports complex and refurbishing existing facilities in the capital Vientiane, with the help of China, Japan, Brunei, South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. From 43 sports in Thailand two years ago, Laos has trimmed the events down to just 25, sparking complaints from member countries.

VIETNAM - AID: International donors have pledged more than $8 billion in development assistance to Vietnam for next year, up from about $6 billion committed for this year. The aid amount was announced Friday in Hanoi, following a two-day meeting of western donors and Vietnamese officials. The World bank is the biggest donor to Vietnam, contributing $2.5 billion for the year 2010. It is followed by Japan's pledge of more than $1.6 billion and the Asian Developed Bank's of close to $1.5 billion. The World Bank's representative in Vietnam, Victoria Kwakwa, said discussions focused on improving the competitiveness of Vietnam's economy and reducing poverty.

PHILIPPINES - MASSACRE: Philippine officials have put a southern province under martial law and have arrested the patriarch of a powerful clan following last week's massacre of 57 people. Government officials say President Gloria Arroyo suspended civil rights in Maguindanao province Saturday, allowing troops to make arrests without warrants. They say troops took Andal Ampatuan Senior and his son (Zaldy Ampatuam) into custody at their home in Maguindanao. Another of Ampatuan's sons (Andal Ampatuan Junior) is already in jail in connection with the massacre.

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