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November 23, 2008

Thai protesters surround Parliament

Thousands of anti-government protesters surrounded Thailand's Parliament in Bangkok Monday as their final act to oust the government, the Associated Press reported.

The protesters, who call themselves the People's Alliance for Democracy, blocked the gates to the Parliament, trying to prevent lawmakers from entering. They also tried to cut electrical wires to create a blackout before the session began.

They initially had the protest to block Parliament from debating a bill to rewrite the constitution. The issue was dropped and lawmakers instead met to debate legislation related to a regional summit.

Protesters accuse former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of corruption and abuse of power, and claim the constitution bill would help him make a comeback.

Thaksin is in exile, a fugitive because he was convicted last month of violating a conflict of interest law.

"I'm very scared. But it is time that we win this," said a protester, Wimon Sricarak. "We have been attacked, our friends have died, and all because they want to protect Thaksin."

November 16, 2008

2nd Haiti collapsed, injuring 8

A school partially collapsed in the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince Wednesday, injuring at least eight students and causing panic less than five days after a larger school collapse killed more than 90 people, the Associate Press reported through Yahoo! News.

Portions of the concrete ceiling fell from, the second-story floor collapsed, and a wall partially fell while class was in session at Grace Divine school. There were no deaths.

Seven students and an adult were treated for minor injuries, said U.N. peacekeeping mission spokeswoman Sophie Boutaud de la Combe.

As word of the collapse spread, crowds of anxious parents and onlookers descended along with ambulances and crews from the deadly Friday collapse of the College La Promesse in nearby Petionville, including members of a U.S. search and rescue team from Fairfax County, Virginia.

Parents and others arrived at the collapse shortly after, along with ambulances and crews from the Friday collapse of the College La Promesse in Petionville, which included members of a U.S. search and rescue team from Fairfax County, Virginia.

U.N. peacekeepers arrived to keep the crowd of thousands under control, stopping them from entering the narrow concrete passageway leading to the school.

Recent heavy rains may have weakened the concrete structure, city building inspector Edouard Ernseau said.

November 9, 2008

Owner of collapsed Haiti school arrested; 88 dead

The owner of a school in Petionville, Haiti was arrested Saturday after it collapsed during school hours Friday, killing at least 88 people, the Associated Press reported.

"Fortin Augustin, the preacher who owns and built College La Promesse in suburban Port-au-Prince, was arrested late Saturday and charged with involuntary manslaughter, said police spokesman Garry Desrosier."

Augustin was held at a police station overnight as a U.S. rescue crew searched for survivors of the three-story building.

Four children were rescued Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

U.N. police spokesman Andre Leclerc said the extent of the injuries to the two girls, ages 3 and 5, and two boys, a 7-year-old and a teenager, was unknown.

The death toll rose to 84 on Saturday, with 150 others injured and many more still missing, Nadia Lochard, civil protection coordinator for the western region that includes Petionville, said.

Using digital cameras on long poles to look under the rubble, U.S. rescuers found six or seven bodies, but think that two of them were already included in the death toll, said Evan Lewis, a member of the team from Fairfax County, Virginia.

The school generally held about 500 students, and had been holding a party the day of the collapse, exempting students from wearing uniforms and complicating efforts to identify their bodies, Lochard said.

Hundreds of Haitians watched Saturday night as rescuers searched through the debris, many waiting for news on their missing students.

November 2, 2008

China destroys tainted feed

More than 3,600 tons of animal feed tainted with melamine, a chemical that caused the recall of Chinese dairy products, were confiscated and destroyed, according to Chinese regulators, The New York Times reported.

The Chinese government also said that 238 illegal feed makers were shut down. The country has been cracking down on food safety and, nationwide, more than 369,000 government inspectors have been involved.

Eggs produced in three Chinese provinces were found to be tainted with melamine, a chemical used to make plastic and fertilizer. Melamine is the same chemical that was found in milk supplies throughout China in September, sickening more than 50,000 children and causing at least four deaths in China.

The government will use harsh punishments to those who deliberately add melamine to animal feed, an official at the Agriculture Ministry said.

“It is illegal for any individual or any enterprise to add melamine into feed, and we will crack down uncompromisingly on melamine,� Wang Zhicai, director of the animal husbandry and livestock bureau at the Agriculture Ministry, said Saturday, according to a transcript of his news conference.

Government officials have also said, however, that China's animal feed supply is mostly safe, and that quality has been improved in the past few years. They said that only a small number of operators had deliberately added melamine to feed.

The Chinese government has fired high-ranking regulators and arrested dozens of people suspected of deliberately adding melamine to milk supplies. The government has promised to ensure the safety of the Chinese food supply.

October 26, 2008

New U.S. tactics in Pakistan

Ground raids in Pakistan have decreased due to the U.S. backing away from using American commandos after complaints from the Pakistani government, the New York Times reported.

The U.S. is instead relying on a campaign of airstrikes by the Central Intelligence Agency against militants in the Pakistani mountains.

Attacks by remotely piloted Predator aircraft have increased in the past three months, American and Pakistani officials have said.

Relying on airstrikes alone, officials said, would decrease the ability of the U.S. to weaken Al Qaeda's grip in the tribal areas.

Advocates of the ground raids have argued that only through the raids can the U.S. successfully capture suspected operatives.

President Bush approved ground raids in July after months of debate and frustration over Pakistan's failure to carry out more counterterrorism operations, but the only known ground mission was a Special Operations raid on Sept. 3, during which two dozen people were killed, including some civilians. Officials said there has not been another commando operation since.

October 12, 2008

European leaders to inject billions into banks

European leaders agreed Sunday to a plan that would put billions of euros into their banks in hopes of restoring a troubled financial system, The New York Times reported.

The European countries, led by France and Germany, promised to take equity stakes in distressed banks and guaranteed bank lending for periods of up to five years.

The plan “treats all the dimensions of the financial crisis,� President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said at a news conference.

The leaders of the 15 countries that use the euro did not name the price they would put into the plan, unlike Britain and the United States.

Individual countries are considering plans to give money to European banks.

Germany is considering a plan to inject up to 100 billion euros into its banks, according to a person briefed on the government’s work, The New York Times reported.

The 15 leaders want to work together and come to a collective response.

September 21, 2008

Nearly 13,000 children in China sick from tainted milk

12,892 children in China became sick last week after drinking tainted milk formula, The New York Times reported.

The milk was contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine, which is banned from foods.

The Star Tribune reported that a toddler in Hong Kong, the first victim of the contamination in the territory, has developed a kidney stone after drinking Chinese milk.

At least four infants have died from the contamination after drinking contaminated baby formula.

Other countries have been taking action by suspending sales and imports of all Chinese dairy products.