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Jet catches fire landing; 49 dead

JAKARTA, Indonesia - A jetliner carrying more than 140 passengers and crew caught fire Wednesday as it landed on Indonesia's Java island, trapping a number of people inside the burning plane, the airline and witnesses said. Officials reported at least 49 dead and scores injured.

The Garuda airlines jet started shaking violently before landing and then overshot the runway, hitting fences and slamming into a rice field before 7 a.m. Some survivors said the fire began at the front of the plane before engulfing the aircraft.

Latin America

Skeptics critical of Bush travel itinerary

Seeking to mend relations with neglected neighbors and counter the influence of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, President Bush starts Thursday on a weeklong swing through Latin America that skeptics call too little, too late.

During his 2000 campaign, Bush promised a "fundamental commitment" to Latin America if he became president. But Sept. 11, 2001, wiped the region from the U.S. radar.

Since then, Latin America has swung politically left. And the view south of the border is that the Bush administration comes courting only to push free-trade and counter-narcotics measures, or to seek support for the war in Iraq.

Israel

Palestinians face major financial crisis

JERUSALEM - The Palestinian Authority faces a fiscal crisis that could threaten its existence, in part because it keeps expanding the public payroll despite sharply reduced revenues, the World Bank said in a report released today.

The Palestinian economy declined in 2006 from an already low level, and the per capita gross domestic product dropped by at least 8 percent, said the report.

Russia

Diplomat irritated by lack of U.S. response

MOSCOW - The United States has not adequately answered Russia's questions on its plans to build components for its missile defense system in former Soviet satellite states in Europe, Russia's top diplomat said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks were the latest expression of irritation from Moscow over Washington, D.C.'s plans to base parts of the system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Elsewhere

New HIV weapon hits roadblock

Men infected with HIV who get circumcised hoping they will be less likely to transmit the virus might have a greater-than-normal risk of infecting their partners if they resume sexual activity too soon after the operation.

That observation, drawn from preliminary analysis of a study in Uganda, threatens to complicate efforts to roll out circumcision as new weapon against HIV in Africa.

Olympian news services

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