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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev listens during a meeting on alcohol abuse issues at the the Black Sea resort of Sochi Wednesday. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the separatist Georgian region of Abkhazia, promising military aid.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev listens during a meeting on alcohol abuse issues at the the Black Sea resort of Sochi Wednesday. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the separatist Georgian region of Abkhazia, promising military aid.
Dmitry Astakhov, Associated Press

Iraq: Flu hits GIs

BAGHDAD — There have been 67 confirmed cases of swine flu among American troops in Iraq with dozens more suspected, Iraqi officials said Wednesday, making U.S. soldiers the single largest group in the country to come down with the virus. American soldiers account for more than two-thirds of Iraq's 96 swine flu cases, according to figures released by the Iraqi Health Ministry, as the virus claimed its first fatality in Iraq. Swine flu cases have been diagnosed at six American bases.

Italy: Climber dies

ROME — Riccardo Cassin, a mountaineering pioneer credited with 100 first ascents from the Himalayas to Alaska, is dead at the age of 100. Cassin died Aug. 6 at his home in Piani Resinelli, a hamlet north of Milan at the foot of the Alps, his climbing equipment company said. The cause of death was not announced.

"He has left us a wealth of values, dreams and climbs that will continue to guide us," said a statement from the company, Cassin Srl. The most memorable of Cassin's first ascents included the 1961 climb up the previously "unclimbable" southern ridge of Alaska's Mount McKinley.

Scotland: Freed?

EDINBURGH — Sky News and BBC television reported Wednesday that Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was to be freed from his Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, but the minister in charge of deciding al-Megrahi's fate denied that any such decision had been made. Neither news network cited a source for its report. Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, who was due to decide whether to release al-Megrahi, told a local television station he had yet to make up his mind. Two spokeswomen for Scotland's devolved government dismissed the BBC and Sky reports as speculation.

Philippines: 23 killed

MANILA — A Philippine general says 23 soldiers have been killed in fierce clashes that also left at least 20 al-Qaida-linked militants dead in the country's restive south. Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino says about 400 army, marines and police commandos launched simultaneous, pre-dawn attacks Wednesday on two Abu Sayyaf extremist group encampments on Basilan Island, sparking fierce fighting that continued to rage late in the day. Dolorfino said Thursday that 20 marines and 3 soldiers, including two officers, were killed in the clashes.

Japan: 6.5 quake

TOKYO — A magnitude-6.5 earthquake hit off Japan's eastern coast early Thursday, the country's Meteorological Agency said. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The agency said there was no danger of damage from a tsunami. The quake hit at 7:49 a.m. off the coast of Hachijo, a small island about 170 miles south of Tokyo, at a depth of 25 miles.