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WASHINGTON: Chiding China on rights

President Barack Obama and top members of his administration raised pointed concerns Monday about Beijing's crackdown on democracy advocates during the first day of high-level talks. Obama "underscored his support for the universal human rights of freedom of expression and worship," the White House said after he met with Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Counselor Dai Bingguo. The world's two biggest economies clashed over America's massive trade deficit with China. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said it would be in China's self-interest to allow its currency, the yuan, to appreciate at a faster rate and allow consumer interest rates to rise. Commerce Minister Chen Deming blamed U.S. policies for the ballooning trade gap and said the United States needed to change its own policies on high-tech sales and investment as a way to spur American manufacturing.

Higher health fees for vets

Health care fees for working-age military retirees would increase slightly under a defense bill unveiled Monday that drew fierce opposition from the 2.1 million-strong Veterans of Foreign Wars. The Pentagon is reeling from health care costs that have jumped from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion in the latest budget request. Determined to slash expenses, President Barack Obama is seeking a boost in fees that have remained unchanged for 11 years. The defense bill proposed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) goes along with a small increase in the next budget but limits long-term increases by linking them to cost of living adjustments for retirees.

GEORGIA: Demolition kills woman

A woman found dead in the wreckage of an abandoned Atlanta house was killed by falling debris when the building was demolished, authorities said Monday. A neighbor, Sharon Huff, said the woman was heard calling for help as the demolition began. Neighbors said homeless people were frequently in the house and police sometimes had to clear the property of vagrants.


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