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DRC - MASSACRE: An international human rights group says rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed at least 321 villagers in a previously unreported massacre that took place in December. In a report Sunday, Human Rights Watch said another 250 people were abducted by rebels from Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. It says the killing spree took place in several villages in the Makombo area of northeastern DRC over the course of four days in mid-December. The group says most of those killed were men who were first tied up and then attacked with machetes, axes, or sticks. A U.N. official confirmed the attacks and said the organization is investigating.
THAILAND - PROTESTS: Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has begun
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talks with leaders of the anti-government "Red Shirt" movement, which has been staging mass protests in Bangkok to demand new elections.
In his weekly television address Sunday morning, Mr. Abhisit said he would not be forced into meeting with the supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. But a few hours later, Mr. Abhisit's office made a special televised announcement saying he would meet protest leaders in a bid to restore peace and minimize the chance of violence. The announcement came after tens of thousands of protesters forced the military Saturday to withdraw from Bangkok's old historic quarter to avoid a confrontation.
BURMA POL: The leader of Burma's military government has warned against foreign interference in national elections slated for later this year, saying political parties should avoid "divisive" and "slanderous" campaigning. Senior General Than Shwe spoke to 13,000 troops on Saturday, Burma's Armed Forces Day, in Naypyidaw, the remote administrative capital. He said the elections are "only the beginning of the process of fostering democracy." Burma has been under military rule since 1962. It last held elections in 1990, which were won decisively by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. But the military refused to let the party assume power.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been under some form of detention for 14 of the past 20 years. She is urging her party not to participate in the voting. A decision is expected shortly.No date has been set for the elections, which are largely seen as a sham designed to keep the military in power.
PHILIPPINES UNREST: Military officials in the Philippines say troops have captured a key jungle camp of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group in the southern Philippines, and may have killed several militants. A statement released Sunday said troops backed by artillery and helicopter gunships overran a camp run by a top Abu Sayyaf commander, Radullan Sahiron, on the island of Jolo Friday.
The statement said two Philippine troops were wounded and at least one Abu Sayyaf gunman was killed and an undetermined number wounded. The military made no mention of the fate of Sahiron. The Abu Sayyaf is blamed for a series of bombings and kidnappings that have targeted foreign missionaries, Christians and U.S. military advisers.
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EARTH HOUR: International landmarks in 125 countries fell dark Saturday night as
lights were switched off for "Earth Hour," a global call for action on
climate change. Hundreds of millions of people in thousands of cities were asked to
turn off non-essential lights at landmarks, businesses and homes from
8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time in every time zone.
It was the fourth annual Earth Hour to be organized by the World
Wildlife Fund, which said participation in this year's event was up
significantly from 2009, when 88 countries took part. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement urging people
to reflect on what he called the "fragility and importance" of their
natural heritage and to protect it for a sustainable future.
The United Nations headquarters in New York joined the symbolic
blackout, along with other U.S. landmarks such as New York's Empire
State Building, Washington's National Cathedral, and the Mount Rushmore
presidential monument in the Midwestern state of South Dakota.
US CHERRY BLOSSOMS: One of the sure signs that spring has arrived in Washington, DC -- the National Cherry Blossom Festival -- is underway in the U.S. capital. The two-week festival began Saturday. It commemorates the 98th anniversary of the first cherry trees' arrival from Japan, and it coincides with the blooming of the cherry blossoms near the Capital Mall. On March 27th, 1912, then-first Lady Helen Taft , wife of President William Taft, joined the wife of the Japanese ambassador to the United States in planting two cherry trees. The first festival to honor that event was held in 1935. First lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 more trees from Japan in 1965. Those trees now circle the Tidal Basin near the monument that honors the late president Thomas Jefferson.