Monday, May 25, 2009

Gov't imposes air, sea blockade in insurgent-run south-central Somalia

MOGADISHU, May 25 (Xinhua) -- The Somali transitional government on Monday announced the imposition of an immediate blockade on airports and seaports in insurgent-run areas in the south and center of the war-torn east African nation.

Following a closed-doors meeting in Mogadishu, Somali cabinet ministers said the sanctions which do not include humanitarian flights and shipments, were aimed at curbing the flow of arms and foreign fighters into the country.

"Starting from today (May 25) sea ports and airports not under the government's control will be closed to any flights or shipments except for humanitarian purposes," Farhan Ali Mohamoud, the Information Minister, told reports in Mogadishu.

Mohamoud said the cabinet endorsed the decision of the east African bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to impose a no-fly-zone and blockade on south-central Somali airports and seaports run by the hardline Islamist movement of Al-Shabaab.

The Al-Shabaab group, listed by the U.S. as a terror organization, controls most of south-central Somalia where the two main ports in Kismayu and Marka and a number of airstrips are located.

He said that call on the UN Security Council to also impose similar sanctions on the airports and seaports in areas where Somali government forces are not in control.

Meanwhile, the UN envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has arrived in the Somali capital on a previously unannounced short visit, during which he held meetings with senior Somali government leaders including the President and Prime Minister, the Information Minister said.

The UN Somalia envoy, who left Mogadishu hours after his arrival, discussed with the Somali leaders on the political, security and humanitarian situation in Somalia at a time when government forces have been engaged in fierce battles with Islamist insurgent forces vying for control of the city for the past two weeks.

Earlier on Monday, Somali President Sheikh Sharif sheikh Ahmed called on the international community for assistance in the fight against local insurgents and foreign fighters who he said invaded Somalia.

The president accused the insurgents and foreign fighters of turning Somalia into Iraq and Afghanistan.

A suicide car bomber on Sunday struck a government military base in Mogadishu, killing eight people, six of them government soldiers, and wounded ten others.

The Al-shabaab movement on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack, describing it as "a blessed operation" against what it termed as apostate forces.

The group, who want to rule Somalia by the Koran, the holy book of Islam, controls most of the south and center of the war-torn Horn of Africa country which has not had a strong central government for nearly two decades.

Somalia, a country of nine million population, has been plagued by civil strife since the overthrow of the late Somali president Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991.

Cyclone "Aila" wrought deaths, destruction in southern Bangladesh

by Shams Chowdhury

DHAKA, May 25 (Xinhua) -- A tidal surge whipped by cyclonic storm "Aila" caused havoc in coastal region of southern Bangladesh on Monday leaving deaths and destructions and forcing tens of thousands of people affected.

The official death toll till Monday evening stood at five, but local media reported varied figures of death from 8 to 21 so far. Leading Bengali language daily "Prothom Alo" Monday night put the figure at 21.

Besides, private news agency bdnews24.com said at least 72 passengers went missing when three trawlers sank in the Meghna river, one of the country's three major rivers, in southern Bhola district, some 200 km away of capital Dhaka.

The cyclonic storm "Aila" formed in Bay of Bengal started crossing southwestern Bangladesh's Khulna coast at around 2 p.m. local time on Monday with a wind speed of 70-90 kms. It also hit the neighboring West Bengal coast of India.

The Bangladesh Meteorological Department in its latest bulletin issued on Monday evening said the remaining part of the storm was still crossing the country's southwestern coastal area.

Thousands of thatched houses in Bangladesh's coastal area were washed away, embankments damaged and tens of thousands of islanders marooned by 10-13 feet (3-4 meters) high surge caused under the impact of the cyclone.

Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzak told a press briefing here late Monday afternoon that though the intensity of cyclone was not strong but abnormal tidal surge washed away many houses and a number of embankments in coastal districts of Barisal, Bagerhat, Laxmipur and Noakhali.

The minister said rescue and relief operation by navy was obstructed as the sea was turbulent. He put the initial death figure at five, but could not give details of deaths and destructions.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Monday ordered the armed forces to start rescue and relief operation alongside the civil administration.

The army, navy and coastguards moved to the cyclone-hit southern offshore islands but turbulent sea impeded rescue and relief operations in remote areas.

Food Secretary Mokhlesur Rahman Monday said 42,000 volunteers were kept ready in the coastal districts to face any situation from Saturday evening.

He said 1.2 million taka (about 17,143 U.S. dollars) cash and 1,000 tons of rice were allocated for the affected people. He said adequate relief materials are kept stock for the affected people.

The met office in capital Dhaka earlier on Monday advised the country's southwestern maritime port of Mongla to keep hoisted danger signal No. 7 in a scale of 10 and the maritime ports of southeastern Chittagong and Cox's Bazar at danger signal 6.

The met office bulletin cautioned that the cyclonic storm "Aila" may whip tidal surge up to 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters) and low areas of some 15 coastal districts may be inundate.

All fishing boats and trawlers over the north Bay of Bengal have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.

Tens of thousands of people from the southern coastlines were evacuated earlier on Monday following a government order to launch an evacuation in view of the further advancement of the cyclonic storm.

Major cities including capital Dhaka are also experiencing drizzle and gusty wind as an impact of the advancing cyclonic storm.

On Nov. 15, 2007, a devastating cyclone Sidr battered Bangladesh 's southern and southwestern coastal areas leaving thousands of people dead or missing.

Powell fires back in debate over GOP's future

Moderate Republicans to conservative Republicans: Turn down the volume — especially on Rush Limbaugh — and open your minds. The party's future might be at stake.

Such warnings about the GOP's right wing, along with finger wagging about a "shrill" and "judgmental" tone, marked the moderate response in the latest back-and-forth within the Republican Party.

Colin Powell and Tom Ridge argued on television's Sunday talk shows that conservatives are steering the GOP too far to the right and not listening to other views within the party. Newt Gingrich, seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2012, agreed about broadening the base while political guru Karl Rove challenged Powell to lay out his vision and "back it up" by helping elect Republicans.

"I believe we should build on the base because the nation needs two parties, two parties debating each other," said Powell, the nation's top military officer under President George H.W. Bush and secretary of state for President George W. Bush.

"But what we have to do is debate and define who we are and what we are and not just listen to dictates that come down from the right wing of the party," he said.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Limbaugh, the king of talk radio, have openly mocked Powell as a Republican in name only, citing his endorsement of Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain in last year's presidential race.

Powell reaffirmed that he is a solid Republican and said the GOP must be more inclusive or risk giving Democrats and independents the chance to scoop up disaffected moderate Republicans. He detailed his presidential voting history — yes to GOP nominees Ronald Reagan through the younger Bush, but yes also to Democrats John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.

"If we don't reach out more, the party is going to be sitting on a very, very narrow base. You can only do two things with a base. You can sit on it and watch the world go by, or you can build on the base," Powell said.

Fellow GOP moderate Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor and homeland security secretary under George W. Bush, said if the GOP wants "to restore itself, not as a regional party, but as a national party, we have to be far less judgmental about disagreements within the party and far more judgmental about our disagreement with our friends on the other side of the aisle."

Gingrich, the former House speaker, insisted he didn't want to pick a fight with Cheney. But he offered this advice: "I think Republicans are going to be very foolish if they run around deciding they're going to see how much they can purge us down to the smallest possible base."

Cheney, defense secretary when Powell was Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman during the Gulf War in 1991, has made clear that he would rather follow broadcaster Limbaugh than Powell into political battle over the GOP's future. "I didn't know he was still a Republican," Cheney said in a television interview two weeks ago.

Limbaugh has called Powell "just another liberal," said he should become a Democrat and charged that Powell endorsed Obama based on race. Powell and Obama are black.

In remarks to business leaders in Boston this past week, Powell took on such high-profile criticism, saying, "I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again."

Rove, chief political strategist for the younger Bush, took the position that "if you say you're Republican, you're Republican." But he wanted more than words from Powell.

"I don't like this thing where people — and Powell is one them — who said, `Rush Limbaugh, shut up.' We believe, as Republicans in the marketplace of ideas. Let that marketplace decide," Rove said.

"I want Colin Powell to go out there and lay out his vision, and then I want him to back it up by finding people who share it and working like heck to get them — and that's how you win the party."

Like Cheney, Rove said he would pick Limbaugh over Powell, but said it's moot. "Neither one of those are going to be people who are offering themselves for office. ... This is a false debate that Washington loves."

Intraparty squabbles would appear natural given the low standing of the Republican Party and George W. Bush's administration in opinion polls. But Republicans who have suggested that the party moderate its views and even support some of Obama's initiatives have been quickly targeted for criticism.

Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter who was on McCain's short list of vice presidential picks but deemed too moderate by more conservative elements of the GOP, said he thinks "a lot of our commentators are being shrill."

"Rush Limbaugh has an audience of 20 million people. A lot of people listen daily to him and live by every word. But words mean things and how you use words is very important," Ridge said. "It does get the base all fired up and he's got a strong following. But personally, if he would listen to me, and I doubt if he would, the notion is express yourselves but let's respect others' opinions and let's not be divisive."

Powell appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation." Ridge's taped interview aired on CNN's "State of the Union." Gingrich spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press" and Rove on "Fox News Sunday."

Ex-NY Times journalists: We fumbled Watergate tip

The reporter rushed up to his editor, thunderstruck by what the FBI's acting director had just let him know: The former attorney general — maybe even the president — was complicit in the Watergate break-in two months before.

But The New York Times let the hot tip fall through the cracks, the reporter and editor say after decades of silence about the August 1972 conversation. They say it's unclear whether the Times pursued information that might have let it beat The Washington Post to the blockbuster story of political espionage, which was described in "All the President's Men" and helped unravel Richard M. Nixon's presidency.

"We missed out," the now-retired editor, Robert H. Phelps, said in an interview Monday, after the Times published a story about the monumental miscue.

Phelps revealed it in "God and the Editor: My Search for Meaning at The New York Times," a memoir published last month by Syracuse University Press. The former reporter, Robert M. Smith, now a lawyer and mediator in San Francisco, confirmed Phelps' account.

Smith was headed to law school and in his last day at the Times' Washington, D.C., bureau when he went to lunch with acting FBI director L. Patrick Gray on Aug. 16, 1972. Smith had cultivated a professional relationship with the FBI chief through writing several stories about him that year.

As they discussed the intrigue surrounding the June 17 attempt to bug the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex, Gray volunteered that former Attorney General John Mitchell was involved, Smith said Monday. Mitchell had stepped down to run Nixon's re-election campaign.

Smith said he asked Gray, "'Does it go up higher?' And he said, 'Yes.'"

Then, Smith said, "I choked and said, 'The president?' And he looked me in the eye," not denying it.

Gray also broached the name of Donald Segretti, an architect of the Nixon campaign's endeavors to infiltrate and sabotage Democrats, Smith said.

Segretti and Mitchell would eventually go to prison for their roles in the roster of political dirty work that came to be known as Watergate — Segretti for distributing political literature without attribution, Mitchell for conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice. Segretti wasn't involved in the Watergate break-in but was associated with an effort to discredit Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Edmund Muskie.

But Segretti's name hadn't emerged publicly when Smith hurried back to the Times' office and told Phelps what he had heard. Nor had Mitchell's link to Watergate been cemented.

Phelps took notes from and recorded his conversation with Smith. They said Monday they don't know what became of the tape, the notes or the tip.

Smith, having moved on to Yale Law School, noticed that no story appeared in the newspaper and figured the information had proved off-base.

Phelps said he can't recall what effort, if any, was made to flesh out the tip or confirm it with other officials. He went on a monthlong vacation a week after Smith's departure.

Phelps writes that it's "inconceivable" he wouldn't have had reporters pursue it, but "(t)he fact is that I bear major responsibility for our failure to follow up on our best opportunity for an early Watergate breakthrough."

Late that September, The Washington Post reported that Mitchell, while attorney general, had controlled a secret Republican fund used to gather information about Democrats. And on Oct. 10, the Post said FBI agents had tied the Watergate bugging to "a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage" conducted by White House officials and Nixon's campaign.

The story made journalistic icons of reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who had been guided confidentially by a government official dubbed Deep Throat in their 1974 book and the movie made from it two years later, featuring Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein and Robert Redford as Woodward.

After years of speculation about Deep Throat's identity, former FBI associate director W. Mark Felt unmasked himself in 2005 as the legendary anonymous source. Felt died last December.

Gray, Felt's boss, died in 2005, weeks after Felt revealed himself. His son, Edward Gray, found a record of his father's Aug. 16, 1972, lunch date with Smith. He told the Times his father liked Smith and "may have let his hair down a little bit" with the reporter, but he doubted his leak-averse father divulged secrets about the Watergate investigation.

The FBI and the Post didn't immediately return telephone messages Monday, Memorial Day, about Phelps' and Smith's disclosure. The Times declined to comment.

Other news organizations also missed opportunities on Watergate. The day after the break-in, two reporters in The Associated Press' Washington bureau recognized the name of the Nixon campaign's security coordinator as among those arrested.

The reporters broke the story but didn't chase the tantalizing lead any further, as recalled in the 2007 book "Breaking News: How The Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace, and Everything Else."

"They just walked away from it," Walter R. Mears, then the AP's assistant bureau chief in Washington, said Monday. "They went on vacation. It was never followed up."

Straus criticizes Dems’ tactics

House Speaker Joe Straus today criticized Democrats for slowing down legislation by dragging out discussions on bills.

“The more they talk, the more explaining they have to do,” Straus told reporters today.

He said that though the Democrats’ tactics during the past few days — talking during nearly all of the 10 minutes allowed for noncontroversial items on a list called the Local and Consent Calendar — are technically allowed, they are holding up important legislation. Normally, items on the Local and Consent Calendar fly through the House, but the Democrats have been trying to avoid consideration of a controversial voter identification measure.

“Local and consent calendars has been, until this moment, a matter of trust among members, and that trust has been abused here,” Straus said. “Perfectly legitimate and within the rules, but it’s not something that I would like to encourage happen again.”

This afternoon, the House has moved on from the Local and Consent items and is — slowly — debating how to change the state’s automatic-admission law for public universities.

The House is closely divided, with 76 Republicans (minus Rep. Edmund Kuempel of Seguin, who has been absent since having a heart attack May 12) and 74 Democrats. Straus said he’s been facilitating conversations among members.

“When we’ve succeeded, it’s when members have put aside their differences and worked things out themselves,” he said. “It isn’t because I’ve forced an outcome.”

Straus said that he hasn’t talked to Gov. Rick Perry about the possibility of a special session on voter ID legislation. “But I wouldn’t be surprised,” Straus said. “I’m still somewhat optimistic we can get to it. But we’re still waiting and the clock is ticking.”

The legislative session ends June 1.

Straus pointed out that Democrats didn’t seem to object to voter ID legislation when it was brought up more than a decade ago. Paul Burka of Texas Monthly discusses this history on his blog.

Straus said “it’s complete hypocrisy” for Democrats who didn’t object to it then to “bring the House to a grinding halt over the same issue now.”

Reid rakes in campaign cash, even without opponent

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, vulnerable in home-state polls but without a big-name opponent so far, takes the stage Tuesday with President Barack Obama at a Las Vegas-style fundraiser billed as "The Good Fight."

But the big-dollar bash begs the question: Where's the fight?

Despite months of promising to target Reid for ousting in 2010, Republicans have yet to land a major candidate deemed capable of raising the money and enthusiasm needed to unseat a sitting majority leader.

A recent newspaper poll showing Reid's vulnerability highlighted the GOP's dilemma. In a survey for the Las Vegas Review-Journal published last week, 45 percent of Nevada voters told pollsters they would definitely vote to unseat Reid. Another 17 percent said they would consider another candidate.

Finding that candidate, while the four-term Democratic senator is calling in chits and racking up campaign money, is proving difficult.

"He's the majority leader and he's going to raise a ton of money. That's intimidating to run against," Nevada's other senator, Republican John Ensign, said of his party's search. A viable candidate would need to get in the race "in the next few months, certainly," Ensign said.

Intimidation has been no small part of Reid's early strategy.

A year and a half from Election Day, the senator has raised a whopping $7.5 million, already half a million more that he spent on his 2004 campaign.

He also has secured the public support of some high-profile Republican donors in Nevada and is believed to have locked up funding from the state's powerful gambling industry.

Reid campaign manager Brandon Hall said the senator is merely responding to Republican promises to target his seat.

"That is why we are starting early and will be prepared to run an aggressive campaign no matter who our opponent will be," Hall said.

Tuesday's fundraiser features headliners Sheryl Crow and Bette Midler. Tickets start at $50 for the concert, but a $29,600 contribution that will be split between Reid's campaign and the Nevada Democratic Party gives donors access to the senator and president.

"This fundraiser is just another show of his strength," said David Damore, a political scientist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "It's a message to any opponent: If you want to compete, this is the kind of game you're going to have to play."

GOP officials insist they will play.

Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Lowden said she is vetting candidates, "some of whom are well-known in the state and some of whom are not as well-known but could self-fund."

Lowden was quick to note Reid's rocky poll numbers in Nevada, as well as his unpopularity outside the state. As a symbol of Democrats' control of Congress, Reid is seen as a polarizing figure but one nevertheless capable of shaking dollars loose from Republican donors from Mississippi to Wyoming.

Outside groups have promised to pour in millions of dollars in independent television and direct mail campaigns. One, the Sacramento-based Our Country Deserves Better PAC, promised to spend $100,000 on anti-Reid radio and television ads timed to Obama's visit.

Nevada GOP officials also will launch a national fundraising mail campaign this week, said Las Vegas-based Republican consultant Ryan Erwin, a party adviser.

"Every month that somebody's not raising the money is a missed opportunity," Erwin said.

Fundraising isn't Republicans' only struggle. The state party was hobbled by a Democratic organizing effort that yielded a 12-point victory for Obama last year. Along with a nearly 100,000-Democratic voter advantage, Nevada Republicans are suffering from a leadership vacuum as Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons continues to be dogged by scandals since taking office in 2006.

With the clock ticking, pressure is mounting on the few GOP candidates viewed as viable.

Rep. Dean Heller has emerged as the party's top pick. As a former secretary of state in Nevada, Heller has run successful statewide races. He's popular in northern and rural Nevada, places where Reid struggles.

But, Heller, 49, also holds an increasingly safe congressional seat. He also recently won a powerful perch on the tax-writing House Ways and Mean Committee, raising the stakes on what he could lose by challenging Reid.

Heller's spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Other names in consideration include U.S. Attorney Greg Brower, a former state assemblyman, and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who remains hamstrung by criminal charges that he mishandled state funds. Krolicki has denied wrongdoing, called the charges political and is seeking to have them dismissed.

The longer Republicans go without an anointed challenger to Reid, the more lesser-known contenders flirt with running.

Anti-tax activist and former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle has said she is exploring getting in the race. Angle is a favorite among fiscally conservative Republicans, and may be able to raise outside money.

But Angle said she has not been embraced by the GOP's recruiting arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"They're standing back. Everybody is standing back waiting to see what happens," she said.

'Night at the Museum' tops 'Terminator'

"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" claimed a box office victory over "Terminator Salvation."

The live-action family comedy starring Ben Stiller won $70 million over the Memorial Day weekend, according to estimates from distributor 20th Century Fox. That put it well ahead of the first "Night at the Museum" movie, which had a $30.4 million three-day opening in December 2006.

"It's blown away our expectations," said Chris Aronson, senior vice president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox. "We've nearly doubled the opening of the first 'Night at the Museum.' It's an incredibly strong No. 1 that beats out 'Terminator,' which I think most people thought would win the weekend."

"Terminator Salvation" pulled in $53.8 million over the four-day holiday weekend — plus $13.4 million on opening day Thursday — bringing the post-apocalyptic action film starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington to a total of $67.2 million since debuting, according to distributor Warner Bros.

With a three-day total of $43 million, that puts the fourth movie in the "Terminator" series behind "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," the last of the franchise's installments to star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The third chapter took in $44 million in its first weekend in 2003.

"I think people expected it to be No. 1 because of that 'Terminator' name alone," said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com. "If you look at it objectively though, it's a sci-fi action film that played to an older audience. It didn't have the broad based appeal of 'Night at the Museum.'"

Paramount's "Star Trek" held up well with $29.4 million, warping down to the No. 3 spot but raising its total to $191 million. The sci-fi franchise reboot directed by J.J. Abrams is on the verge of becoming the year's top-grossing movie so far, approaching the $193.5 million gross of DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters vs. Aliens."

"'Star Trek' is living long and prospering," said Dergarabedian. "It's just one of those movies we knew would hold up. People are enjoying it and talking about it. It's unusual for a summer blockbuster to be propelled by word of mouth, not just the typical marketing push for a big opening weekend. I think it's going to continue to do well week after week."

The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Sony's "Angels & Demons," fell to fourth place with $27.7 million, lifting its domestic haul to $87.8 million.

On the whole, it was another strong weekend of business at movie theaters, which have been drawing large crowds throughout the recession. Dergarabedian pegs the year-to-date attendance at a nearly 12 percent increase over last year. The top Memorial Day weekend at the box office remains 2007, which featured the third installments of "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Shrek" and "Spider-Man."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Tuesday.

1. "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," $70 million.

2. "Terminator Salvation," $53.8 million.

3. "Star Trek," $29.4 million.

4. "Angels & Demons," $27.7 million.

5. "Dance Flick," $13.1 million.

6. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," $10.1 million.

7. "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," $4.8 million.

8. "Obsessed," $2.5 million.

9. "Monsters vs. Aliens," $1.9 million.

10. "17 Again," $1.3 million.

Israel claims Venezuela sending uranium to Iran

Israel suspects Venezuela and Bolivia of supplying uranium to Iran, according to a foreign ministry document leaked to media.

"We have information according to which Venezuela provides uranium to Iran for its nuclear programme," the document says.

"It seems that Bolivia is also a supplier of uranium to the Iranian nuclear programme," the document said, adding that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has played a key role in boosting Iran's ties with Bolivia.

The document said Venezuela is helping Iran dodge UN imposed sanctions.

It further claimed Iran is establishing cells of the Hezbollah militia in northern Venezuela and on Venezuela's Margarita Island.

Iran denies Western and Israeli suspicions that it is developing nuclear weapons, asserting that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. It is defying a UN demand to halt uranium enrichment.

Chavez has voiced support for Iran's nuclear programme.

The release of the document came one week before Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon is due to travel to Honduras to attend the Organization of American States (OAS) general assembly in what the ministry said would be an opportunity "to challenge the penetration of Iran and Hezbollah into the region."

Democracy icon set to testify at Myanmar trial

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will testify Tuesday at her trial for allegedly violating terms of her house arrest as the prosecution's withdrawal of its nine remaining witnesses suggested the military government wanted to quickly wrap up the proceedings.

Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi's lawyers, said Monday her defense team was unhappy that it was not given sufficient time to consult with their client about her planned testimony.

Suu Kyi is widely expected to be found guilty for allegedly harboring an American who swam across a lake to her residence. She faces up to five years in prison.

Suu Kyi pleaded not guilty Friday but Myanmar's courts operate under the influence of the ruling military, and almost always deal harshly with political dissidents. Two women assistants who live with her, and the foreign intruder, also pleaded not guilty to the same charge.

Asked Monday if he thought the court is rushing through the trial, Nyan Win said, "It is very certain."

Already bombarded by criticism from Western nations, the junta turned on neighboring Thailand, a partner in the 10-nation Association of Southeast Nation, or ASEAN, accusing its neighbor of violating the bloc's principle by interfering in Myanmar's internal affairs.

Thailand, the grouping's current chairman, last week expressed "grave concern" over the trial, saying "the honor and the credibility of the (Myanmar government) are at stake."

A statement from Myanmar issued Monday responded: "It is sadly noted that (Thailand) failed to preserve the dignity of ASEAN, the dignity of Myanmar and the dignity of Thailand."

Suu Kyi had been scheduled to be freed from six years of detention without trial this Wednesday.

The charges against her are widely seen as a pretext for the government to keep her detained during polls it has scheduled for next year as the culmination of a "roadmap to democracy," which has been criticized as a fig leaf for continued military rule.

Nyan Win said the court waived the nine remaining prosecution witnesses — 23 had been scheduled — and the judge announced that Suu Kyi would have to testify Tuesday.

Suu Kyi's side does not contest the facts of the case — that a 53-year-old American, John W. Yettaw, swam across a lake to her property under the cover of darkness earlier this month to enter uninvited into her home. Her lawyers have said she allowed him to stay for two days after he said he was too tired and ill to immediately swim back across the lake.

Suu Kyi told her lawyers she did not report him because she did not want him or security personnel in charge of her house to get into trouble because of her.

The 63-year-old Nobel Peace laureate told them the incident occurred because of a security breach — the house is tightly guarded — so the responsibility for allowing Yettaw in lies with the security forces.

When he pleaded not guilty, Yettaw, from Falcon, Missouri, explained it was because he had a dream that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and he had come to warn her that her life was in danger.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press, said 10 to 15 journalists would be allowed to observe Tuesday's court session. The diplomats were told at a briefing by the Foreign Affairs Ministry they would also be allowed in.

Authorities last week unexpectedly opened the hearing for one day to diplomats from nearly 30 embassies and 10 reporters. Three envoys also were allowed to meet with Suu Kyi.

The trial comes weeks after the European Union announced it was stepping up humanitarian aid to the impoverished country, also known as Burma, and the United States said it was reviewing its policy — including speculation that it might soften sanctions the regime says have crippled its economy.

But now the EU is talking of introducing tougher sanctions in response to the trial and the administration of President Barack Obama has announced it will continue its economic penalties. Obama extended a state of emergency against the country after Suu Kyi's arrest. Sanctions would have expired had the emergency order not been extended.

Troops in Iraq, Afghanistan honor their fallen

American troops on Memorial Day honored their fallen on two battlefields, one war winding down and another ramping up. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military remembered the toll so far on the troops — more than 4,900 dead — with the outcome still unclear.

In Iraq, soldiers and Marines stood solemnly during a playing of Taps at Baghdad's Camp Victory. They saluted a memorial of a single helmet propped on a rifle beside a pair of boots.

Thousands of miles away, in the Afghan capital of Kabul, soldiers left mementos at a similar memorial for two comrades who recently died.

"Memorial Day for us is intensely personal," Gen. David McKiernan, the outgoing U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told a crowd at Camp Eggers. The training command based there has lost 70 soldiers since last Memorial Day.

"It is the empty seat in the mess hall, the battle buddy who is no longer here, or the friend who did not return from patrol. And it is the commitment to carry on with the mission in their honor," McKiernan said.

In Iraq, long the main focus of America's "Global War on Terror," the loss has been no less bitter.

"We grieve their loss and we smile at their memory," Brig. Gen. Peter C. Bayer Jr. told a crowd of about 100 at Camp Victory on the western outskirts of Baghdad.

But after six years of war and 4,300 dead, the end is in sight in Iraq.

America's combat role in the long and painful conflict is to finish by September 2010. Most of the 130,000 troops are expected to go home next year as the U.S. shifts military resources to Afghanistan.

As a first step, American troops are to pull out of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities by the end of next month, leaving security in the hands of Iraq's own soldiers and police.

It remains unclear, however, whether Iraqi forces are up to the task. Violence may increase.

Bayer reminded soldiers Monday that the Iraq war may be winding down but is not over. At least 18 U.S. troops have died in Iraq this month — eight of them by hostile fire.

"The message is the mission continues," Bayer said. "We still have an insurgency here, just as we have an active insurgency in Afghanistan."

At Camp Victory, Staff Sgt. Bienvenido Celestino, 43, stood by the makeshift memorial, taking a moment to remember those who served and died during his three deployments in Iraq.

"It's a very painful experience," said Celestino of Killeen, Texas. "It is something that is always with you ... whether you are here in Iraq or not."

American troops in Afghanistan, however, now face a growing war against a revived Taliban that has regained much of the ground that it lost to the first U.S.-led offensive in 2001.

While the outlook for U.S. troops in Iraq appears somewhat brighter, there is a growing sense that the war in Afghanistan is not going America's way.

In 2008, 151 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan, up from 111 the year before. At least 48 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far this year

With the war going badly, McKiernan was replaced this month by Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who led the Special Operations command that was widely credited with breaking the back of al-Qaida in Iraq.

An additional 21,000 U.S. troops have started arriving in Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama's plan to bolster troop strength enough to push back the resurgent Taliban. Officials have said they expect more attacks and more fighting as the new troops take up positions.

At the Camp Eggers ceremony, soldiers wearing khaki, camouflage and blue blazers gathered to salute their latest dead comrades — 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte, or Roz, from Missouri and Shawn Pine, a former Army Ranger who was working as a contractor to train Afghan soldiers.

Schulte and Pine died last week when their vehicle hit a bomb on the road from Camp Eggers to Bagram Air Field for an intelligence-sharing conference, said Sgt. Chantell Smith.

Soldiers stood and saluted, then walked in small groups to a memorial for Schulte and Pine and left mementos of those who died. Smith hung Schulte's dog tags over the dead woman's rifle.

Fellow soldiers described Schulte as an energetic, friendly soldier. They recalled how her kindness shone through in small actions, like getting the instructions on over-the-counter drugs she handed out to Afghans translated into the local language.

"She was vivacious, bubbly and had this zeal for life," Smith said. "She had a passion for people who were less fortunate than her, and at that age that was impressive. I know that I was not like that at 25."

Smith, who has been in Afghanistan about six months, said she won't ever think of Memorial Day the same way again.

"Some people have died prior to you and the unfortunate thing is that some people may die after you," she said. "I'll never go back home and take this just as another holiday that I'm off, just another time to have a cookout. ... I will truly see it as a holiday to honor fallen comrades."

At Camp Victory, Sgt. Porter Washington, 38, of Huntington, W.Va., said he was finishing up his first — and likely only — deployment to Iraq.

A common signoff Washington hears these days between soldiers leaving Iraq: "See you in Afghanistan."

Sheriff: Boy who fled chemo returns to Minnesota

A 13-year-old cancer patient and his mother are back in Minnesota after fleeing nearly a week ago to avoid court-ordered chemotherapy, a sheriff's office said Monday.

The Brown County sheriff's office did not provide more details Monday before an evening news conference at the county seat of New Ulm.

Daniel Hauser and his mother, Colleen, had been due to appear in court last Tuesday for a hearing that could have resulted in a judge ordering chemotherapy to treat Daniel for Hodgkin's lymphoma. They missed the court appearance, and the search for them had focused on southern California and Mexico.

A message left for Daniel's attorney Monday afternoon was not immediately returned. An attorney for Colleen and Anthony Hauser was out of town and could not be reached for immediate comment.

Daniel has Hodgkin's lymphoma, which doctors say has a 90 percent chance of being cured in children if treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Without treatment, he has a 5 percent chance of survival.

Daniel underwent one round of chemotherapy in February, but stopped after that single treatment, citing religious beliefs. The family opted instead for natural healing practices inspired by American Indians.

A judge ruled that the parents medically neglected Daniel and ordered them to get him an updated chest X-ray as well as select an oncologist for a re-evaluation. After the X-ray showed a tumor in Daniel's chest has grown, the mother and son left town.

The American Cancer Society estimates there are 35 to 50 clinics in Mexican border towns that attract cancer patients looking for alternatives to traditional U.S. treatment methods.

An FBI affidavit alleges Colleen Hauser fled to avoid being prosecuted on two state counts of depriving another of custodial or parental rights. Brown County family services has been granted custody of Daniel to get him to a pediatric oncologist.

Last Thursday, Anthony Hauser appeared before reporters asking his wife to come home. "If you're out there, please bring Danny home so we can decide as a family what Danny's treatment should be," he said.

At a news conference Thursday, Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann vowed to arrange a safe return for Colleen Hauser without an enforcement action if she shows "a good faith effort to come back."

UN Security Council condemns NKorea's nuclear test

The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously condemned North Korea for violating the world body's resolutions by testing a nuclear bomb, council president Vitaly Churkin of Russia said.

"The members of the Security Council voiced their strong opposition and condemnation of the nuclear test conducted on 25 May 2009 by North Korea, which constitutes a clear violation of (UN) Resolution 1718," Churkin told reporters following an emergency meeting of the 15-member council.

Member states also decided to immediately begin working on a Security Council resolution to address North Korea's latest test, Churkin said.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said "the US thinks this is a grave violation of international law, and a threat to regional and international peace and security.

"And therefore, the United States will seek a strong resolution with strong measures," she added.

"We believe it ought to be a strong resolution with appropriately strong contents, but obviously unless and until we complete the negotiation process, it is premature to say what its contents will be."

The emergency meeting began around 4:30 pm (2030 GMT), half an hour behind schedule.

It was preceded by a "P5 + 2" session between the five permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Japan and South Korea, two of the countries involved in six-party talks aimed at shuttering Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Hours earlier, North Korea conducted its test -- an underground blast far bigger than its first nuclear test in 2006 -- drawing stern rebukes from global leaders, with US President Barack Obama warning of "grave" danger and Israel stressing "negative implications" in the Middle East.

South Korea put its military on alert and world powers frustrated by failed diplomatic efforts to rein in Pyongyang demanded a firm response.

Even China, the secretive North's closest international ally, expressed "resolute opposition."

Compounding the frustration among world leaders, the nuclear detonation came amid reports that Pyongyang also tested a short-range missile.

The main powers on the Security Council all strongly condemned North Korea with France urging sanctions against Kim Jong-Il's Stalinist administration, as foreign ministers from Asia and Europe began two days of talks.

"China strongly demands that North Korea keeps its promise of denuclearization and ceases all actions that could further worsen the situation," the Chinese foreign ministry said in its statement.

Russia said the test would "provoke an escalation of tensions in northeast Asia," according to a foreign ministry statement, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the test was a "danger to the world."