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An estimated 60,000 South Korean Buddhists rallied Wednesday against alleged religious discrimination by the government of President Lee Myung Bak – the latest setback for his protest-plagued administration. Discontent among Buddhists has been brewing for months over Lee's alleged favoritism toward Christianity. Buddhists have criticized Lee for filling most of his Cabinet and top presidential posts with fellow Christians.

The top US diplomat in Peshawar, Pakistan, escaped an attempt on her life Tuesday when two men with AK-47s jumped in front of her armored-vehicle and sprayed it with bullets. Lynne Tracy, who heads the US consulate, was driven to safety by her driver, who jammed the vehicle in reverse and sped away.

The first Japanese to be kidnapped in Afghanistan was killed, likely by a rock attack, police officials said Wednesday after the body of Kazuya Ito, an agricultural aid worker, was found in the remote eastern Afghan mountains. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The Japanese government said no ransom demands had been made.

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The Swiss government said it opposes an initiative to ban the construction of minarets at Islamic prayer houses in the country. Supporters of the ban, which will be decided in a referendum in two months, say the minaret is a symbol of Muslim conquest. The government says the proposal violates human rights and the Swiss Constitution and would not help combat Islamic fundamentalism.

Long-imprisoned Chinese dissident Hu Shigen was released Tuesday by Chinese authorities after serving 16 years of his 20-year sentence for his "counterrevolutionary" activities, which included helping to organize a political party and independent labor union. He also was involved in planning to commemorate victims of the government's June 1989 military crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

An earthquake In Siberia measuring 9 on the Richter scale hit the Lake Baikal area Wednesday, but there were no casualties or major damage, officials said.

Spanair says the plane that crashed last week in Madrid, killing 154 people, had landing gear trouble that forced it to abandon a takeoff attempt last month on a flight from Spain to Denmark. A company official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said mechanics reportedly fixed the problem.

An experiment to restage a mini-version of the "Big Bang," which formed the universe 15 billion years ago, are ready to proceed next month in a underground particle collider near Geneva following successful preliminary tests, the European Organization for Nuclear Research said. The particle-smashing experiment could last for years.

An Australian school that has banned cartwheels, handstands, and other unsupervised gymnastic maneuvers on the playground because of the risk of injury has decided to review the prohibition. The decision received national attention after parents in Townsville, on Australia's northeast coast, complained and a state education minister warned against "mollycoddling" children.

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