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Hu Jia, a soft-spoken, bespectacled advocate for democracy and human rights in China, was awarded Europe's most prestigious human rights prize on Thursday. The award was a pointed rebuke of China's ruling Communist Party that comes as European leaders are arriving in Beijing for a weekend summit. Hu, 35, was chosen by the European Parliament as this year's recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, despite warnings from Beijing that his selection would harm relations with the European Union. Last year, Hu testified via video link before a hearing of the European Parliament about China's human rights situation. Weeks later, he was jailed and later sentenced to 31/2 years in prison. Hu was considered a frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize, only to lose to the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari.


NASA tries to get ailing Hubble to work

NASA is trying again to wake up the sleeping science computer on the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble hasn't been able to take pictures since late September because its computer couldn't collect and transmit photos. NASA tried to wake up a backup system last week but ran into new problems that shut the computer down again. Engineers switched on Hubble's science computer Thursday in a process that will take more than a day. They hope minor fixes will prevent the glitches from returning. If it works, Hubble should begin taking pictures Saturday and sending them down to Earth.


Military trying to curb domestic violence

The military is working to ease the stigma for soldiers seeking help with domestic problems, which have been blamed for the deaths of four North Carolina military women this year, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday. Gates said this year's defense budget includes $900-million for work to end domestic violence, which can be exacerbated by multiple stressful deployments. He also said the military is working to slow the pace of deployments so troops can spend more time at home and less time in war zones. Three female soldiers have been killed in Fayetteville, the city adjacent to Fort Bragg, since June and a female Marine was killed earlier this year in Jacksonville, the home of Camp Lejeune. In each case, a spouse or boyfriend in the military has been charged with murder.


Mexico: Four men were shot dead in front of a crowd at an amusement park, a toddler died after the car he was traveling in crashed during a gun battle, and a businessman was killed after leading a protest against violence, officials said Thursday. Altogether, 21 people died during 24 hours across Mexico, which is waging a fierce battle against drug traffickers and other criminal gangs.

JERUSALEM: Israel's Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni gave potential coalition partners on Thursday three days to join a new government under her leadership or face the prospect of new elections. Livni, who has until Nov. 3 to put together a parliamentary majority, informed Israeli President Shimon Peres of her decision.

HAVANA: Cuba and the European Union signed an agreement calling for EU members to send the island $2.6-million in immediate hurricane recovery aid and up to $38.8-million more in financing next year, ending a standoff that began in 2002 when the Communist government launched a crackdown against dissidents.

Times wires