U.N. officials and the Ethiopian government appear to have reached an agreement to allow emergency food aid into the conflict-ridden area that the Ethiopian military has been blockading for several weeks, both sides said Wednesday. According to Nur Abdi Mohammed, a government spokesman, food deliveries will soon begin to most parts of the eastern Ogaden region, which the Ethiopian military has recently sealed off in an apparent effort to squeeze a growing rebel movement there. On Tuesday, regional government officials, who oversee the Ogaden, expelled the Red Cross, accusing Red Cross workers of providing weapons, money and sensitive information to the rebels. "They were spies," Mohammed said. Red Cross officials said they were still negotiating with the government to work out a way to stay.
Hindus' sacred bull will be slaughtered
Shambo, a bull sacred to Hindus but condemned by health authorities after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis, will be slaughtered, his keepers said Wednesday. The Skanda Vale Hindu monastery in southwest Wales said monks had been told that Shambo would be taken away today. The 6-year-old Friesian tested positive for the disease in the spring. Regulations stipulate that cattle suspected of carrying TB be slaughtered, but Shambo's caretakers mounted a determined campaign to save the beast. The monastery publicized its case with an Internet petition, a blog offering Shambo's "daily thoughts" and a "Moo Tube" Webcast that tracks the bull's movements around its hay-filled shrine. Last week, a judge in Wales ordered local authorities to reconsider their decision. But Monday the Court of Appeal in London reversed the decision, ruling that Shambo's slaughter was justified.
Strike shuts down public services
Israel's largest trade union Wednesday began a general strike that shut down the country's seaports, land crossings, railways, mail service, garbage collection and many other public services. With the Histadrut union giving Ben-Gurion International Airport an extra day to operate during the peak tourism season, airlines squeezed in as many flights as possible. Most other public services were shut down at daybreak Wednesday. The union began the open-ended strike after talks with the Finance Ministry over public sector pay broke down.
Lebanon: A French peacekeeper working on a U.N. demining team was killed Wednesday when an unexploded shell from last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah blew up as he was trying to clear it, a U.N. official said.
India: Pratibha Patil was sworn in Wednesday as India's first female president, vowing to eliminate the practice of aborting female fetuses and to empower women.