Futures prices for crude oil crept closer to the $100-a-barrel threshold in trading Tuesday, and analysts predicted that the mark may be reached as soon as the weekend. Light sweet crude for December delivery was up $2.23 per barrel to $96.21 on European markets amid concern over supply shortages across the northern US as winter approaches. Inventories in Japan, the world's third-largest consumer, also were below what are considered comfortable levels.

A terrorist detonated an explosive belt among legislators touring a factory in northern Afghanistan Tuesday, killing at least 64 people and wounding dozens more, many of them critically. Among the dead were local schoolchildren who were there to greet the visiting members of parliament. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the worst of its type in Afghan history. Northern Afghanistan largely had escaped the violence that has wracked southern provinces, where Taliban units are trying to reexert control.

Suspected Muslim separatists detonated a bomb by remote control at an outdoor market in southern Thailand, adding to violence that has killed 18 people in the past three days. At least 27 shoppers were hurt, two of them critically, reports said. Analysts said the spike in violence in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces is due to a new rotation of Army units, which has brought in soldiers not yet familiar with the area.

A longtime ally and confidant of Hugo Chávez broke with the leftist Venezuelan president Monday, telling a news conference that proposed reforms to the Constitution are "shameless." Former Defense Minister Raul Baduel (above, reading to reporters from a copy of the charter) touched off heated debate on TV talk shows by blasting Chávez's effort to win the right to run for reelection as often as he likes. Sixty-nine proposed reforms were approved by the pro-Chávez National Assembly last week and are scheduled to be put to a national referendum Dec. 2.

Ten of 16 suspects are due in court Wednesday in Fiji to face charges that they plotted to kill military ruler Frank Bainimarama and members of his cabinet, and police said they expect "a lot more arrests" in the case. Bainimarama told a news conference that the plot, if not uncovered, would have led to "serious unrest, bloodshed, and instability." One of those in custody is a New Zealand national who reportedly was severely beaten for resisting arrest. But Bainimarama sought to dispel suggestions that New Zealand's or Australia's governments had supported the plot.

Rain triggered a mudslide into an already flooded river in southern Mexico's Chiapas State, wiping out a small town, reports said Tuesday. Rescuers were searching for at least 16 missing residents, and helicopters were being used to pick up others who managed to flee to higher ground. In neighboring Tabasco State, giant pumps were clearing water from the flooded streets of the capital, Villahermosa.

Scientists in Japan removed "receptor molecules" from a species of algae in an experiment that could allow toxic red tide and other unwanted marine species to be controlled, reports said Tuesday. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest another application: the cultivation of types of kelp that are used as food. In removing the receptors, the scientists found that algal blooms no longer could grow, no matter how great their exposure to light.

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