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May 19, 2009 at 7:59 AM   |   Comments

Obama to propose new fuel standards

WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- Vehicles getting at least 30 miles per gallon of gas are on the horizon under new fuel economy standards U.S. President Barack Obama is poised to present.

Obama was to propose tough new fuel economy standards and the first-ever greenhouse gas pollution standards for cars Tuesday.

The program begins in model year 2012 and requires the fleet average to be 35.5 mpg by 2016, four years earlier than the existing laws, a White House spokesman said during a news briefing Monday. The average fuel efficiency for the current model year, 2009, is 25 miles per gallon.

Specifically, fuel efficiency for cars would be 39 mpg by 2016 and 30 mpg for trucks, he said.

"This is an average 5 percent a year in increased fuel efficiency," the anonymous spokesman said.

The program is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 900 million metric tons, the spokesman said.

"That is equivalent to taking 177 million cars off the road or shutting down 194 coal plants," he said.

California will defer to the national policy through 2016, which the proposal encompasses, and not seek a separate program, the official said.

The Environmental Protection Agency and other administration officials worked with representatives from California and the car companies to develop the proposal, the spokesman said.

"It's important to note that all companies will be required to make more efficient and cleaner cars," he said. "We do that ... by proposing individual standards for each class size of vehicle and then a fleet average for each company."

The cost of an average car would increase by $600 -- or a total of $1,300 when increases are included from previous energy rules not yet felt at dealerships, the spokesman said.


Biden arrives in Sarajevo for Bosnia talks

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina, May 19 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived Tuesday in Sarajevo for talks with leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first stop on his three-country Balkan tour.

Biden's Air Force Two landed at Sarajevo airport before dawn and was welcomed by U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Charles English, Bosnian Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj and Sarajevo Mayor Alija Behmen, the sarajevo-x.com Web site said.

Javier Solana, foreign policy chief of the European Union, and Valentin Inzko, EU special representative and the world's envoy to Bosnia are accompanying Biden at his talks with Bosnia's leaders.

Biden is to travel to Belgrade Wednesday for talks with Serbian leaders, and Thursday will visit Pristina for talks with leaders of Kosovo, where he will tour the U.S. Bondsteel military base for talks with U.S. and NATO officials.


India test-fires Agni-II ballistic missile

BELASORE, India, May 19 (UPI) -- India successfully tested its nuclear-capable Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile Tuesday, defense sources say.

The missile was test fired from a mobile launcher at India's Integrated Test Range at Wheelers Island near Dhamra, the Press Trust of India reported.

Scientists from the country's Defense Research and Development Organization provided logistical support for the test-firing and will conduct a detailed analysis of the effort, PTI's unnamed sources said.

The news agency said while the surface-to-surface Agni-I missile had a strike range of 930 miles, the Agni-II missile can hit targets between 1,550 and 1,860 miles away with a 2,200-pound payload.


Suu Kyi trial a 'mockery,' laureates say

YANGON, Myanmar, May 19 (UPI) -- The trial of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a U.S. citizen moved into its second day Tuesday, with nine Nobel laureates calling it a "mockery."

Prosecutors indicated they plan to call 22 witnesses against the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has been under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years.

She is on trial with Amerinca John Yettaw, who is charged with violating the conditions of Suu Kyi's house arrest, CNN reported.

The woman's supporters maintain the charges are an excuse by the military junta of the country formerly known as Burma to extend her house arrest.

"The trial is a mockery," nine Nobel Peace prize winners said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday, urging his intervention. Signatories included Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

"There is no judicial system in Burma," the letter said. "It is clear that this is an excuse by the military junta to add trumped-up charges at a time when Daw (an honorific recognition) Aung San Suu Kyi's unlawful detention was scheduled to end May 27, 2009."

The charges stem from May 3, when Yettaw allegedly swam almost two miles across a lake behind Suu Kyi's home and stayed for two days.


Abu Sayyaf militants behead kidnap victim

MANILA, Philippines, May 19 (UPI) -- Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants in the Philippines beheaded a farm owner they had kidnapped earlier because their ransom demand was not met, police said.

The incident occurred near Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, the Manila Times reported.

The severed head of Doroteo Gonzales, 61, was recovered late Sunday in the village of Mangalot in Basilan province, police said, adding his body has yet to be found.

Abu Sayyaf is one of the groups fighting for a separate Islamic state on Mindanao in southern Philippines.

The Manila Times reported Gonzales was abducted last month from his home in the village of Buenavista and brought to Basilan by his captors.

The Philippine military said three people have been arrested as suspects in the slaying, the report said. They were identified as members of Abu Sayyaf.

Police said Gonzales' captors demanded a ransom of more than $520,000, warning his family he would be killed if the money was not paid.

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