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In brief: Japan launches fifth spy satellite

Tokyo – Japan launched its fifth spy satellite into orbit today in a bid to boost its ability to independently gather intelligence, the government said.

The domestically developed H-2A rocket carrying the $565 million satellite lifted off from a space center on the southern island of Tanegashima.

Hisashi Michigami, an official at the Cabinet Office, said the launch was successful.

Japan has long relied on the United States for intelligence. But it launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea’s missile program.

North Korea shocked Tokyo in 1998 when it test-fired a missile over Japan.

Abbas dismisses construction halt

Caracas, Venezuela – Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dismissed an Israeli plan to halt new construction of West Bank settlements as insufficient on Friday, saying it won’t be enough to restart peace talks.

The Palestinian president said during his first visit to Venezuela that “we can’t accept the current Israeli government’s concept for the negotiations.”

Abbas said Wednesday’s announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a 10-month halt to new construction in West Bank Jewish settlements “didn’t bring anything new” because construction would continue in east Jerusalem and in the West Bank regardless of a freeze on new settlement building.

“The Israeli prime minister had to choose between peace and occupation,” Abbas said in a speech to Venezuelan lawmakers. “Lamentably, he chose occupation.”

Mob beats, burns murder suspects

Guatemala City, Guatemala – A mob burned to death Friday two men and a woman suspected of killing a local bus driver, police said. Photos showed the half-burned bodies lying in a street in the western city of Solola.

Police said the three were taken into custody for allegedly shooting to death the bus driver and wounding two passengers.

National Police spokesman Donald Gonzalez said about 400 residents later showed up at the police station, set fire to three patrol cars and forced the outnumbered officers to turn over the suspects.

The mob then beat the trio unconscious, doused them with gasoline and set them alight.


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Death, washed-out roads amid flooding in Upper Midwest

new  Widespread flooding in the Upper Midwest was blamed for at least one death in Wisconsin, while officials in northern Michigan were assessing damage from flash-flooding that washed out roads, damaged businesses and caused dozens of sinkholes.