US - LAOS - HMONG: The leader of the Hmong refugee community in the U.S. says he will return to Laos early next year. Vang Pao announced his plans earlier this week during a dinner held in his honor in Fresno, California. The 79-year-old once led a CIA-backed guerilla operation that fought in vain to stop the communist takeover of his country during the Vietnam War. He told the attendees he was returning to Laos in an effort to liberate Hmong facing political persecution. Thousands of Hmong have fled to Thailand seeking political asylum. Many of them have been living at a camp in a northern Thai province. The U.S. Justice Department recently dismissed charges against Vang Pao of plotting to overthrow the communist government of Laos.
TAIWAN - CHINA: A police officer was injured and six people detained in Taiwan during a
protest against the presence of China's top Taiwan negotiator.
Wednesday's incident was the first occurrence of violence since Chen
Yunlin arrived in Taiwan several days ago. The French news agency said
the officer was trying to get the demonstrators to stop using fireworks.
Chen said Wednesday a free-trade pact between China and Taiwan would
benefit both sides. At a business conference in the central city of
Taichung, Chen said it was understandable that some people are
concerned about the proposed agreement.
CHINA - XINJIANG: Officials in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang say five more
people have been sentenced to death for taking part in the deadly
ethnic riots in July.
The condemned prisoners were the latest to receive the death penalty in
trials held in the regional capital Urumqi this week. A total of 22
people have been sentenced to die this week after being convicted for
taking part in the rioting.
Nine people have already been executed, while five others sentenced to
die were given a two-year reprieve, a punishment normally commuted to
life in prison.
The names of the condemned suggest all of them are Uighurs.
PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: A suicide bomb attack has rocked the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing at least five people and wounding more than 20 others. Pakistani officials say a suicide bomber walked up to a security checkpoint Thursday and detonated his explosives after he was stopped by police. Officials say the checkpoint --- near the offices for Pakistan's national airline -- is along one of the city's busiest roads. The area is also home to some media companies, a church school and several other businesses. The explosion comes just two days after a suicide bomber killed three people and wounded at least 17 others in an attack on a press club in Peshawar -- the first such attack against a media institution in the city.
IRAN - PROTESTS: An Iranian court has sentenced a former government spokesman to six
years in jail for involvement in post-election protests against Iran's
Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, a prominent reformist, had been charged by the
Revolutionary court with acting against Iran's national security.
Iranian media did not say when his sentence was issued.
Ramezanzadeh was a government spokesman under Iran's reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005.
The former spokesman was among scores of senior reformists detained and
put on trial on charges of fomenting unrest after June's disputed
BURMA - RUSSIA - JETS: Russia has reportedly agreed to sell Burma 20 MiG-29 fighter jets. Russian media reports quote military officials in Moscow as saying they beat out a bid from China to win the contract, worth about $570 million dollars. China reportedly offered to sell Burma its J-10 and FC-1 fighters. Burma's ruling military government is under sanctions from the United States and other western nations due to its poor human rights record. But Russia, China and India have sold the Asian country weapons in recent years. The media reports say Russia previously sold Burma 12 MiG fighters in 2001.
US HEALTH CARE: The U.S. Senate has approved sweeping new health care reform
legislation that would extend health insurance access to about 30
million uninsured Americans.
In an early morning vote Thursday, senators approved the bill 60 to 39
along party lines, with minority Republicans unanimously opposed.
Before the president can sign the bill into law, the Senate and the
House of Representatives must reconcile their two separate versions of
the bill. The two versions differ on several key points, meaning a
compromise could take time. (News Updates)
OBAMA - INTERVIEW: U.S. President Barack Obama says the public is justified in its disappointment with the outcome of the United Nations climate summit last week in Denmark. In an interview with PBS television Wednesday, Mr. Obama says nations did not take the steps necessary to combat the effects of climate change. The climate change conference in Copenhagen ended last week with a non-binding agreement urging major polluters to make deeper emissions cuts. Mr. Obama said negotiations nearly broke down after Chinese representatives skipped meetings and India's prime minister threatened to leave.
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