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CHINA / Internet blocks of U.S. firms blasted

The United States is pressing China to explain why its "national firewall" blocks so many U.S. companies from providing their services via the Internet, according to a letter obtained Wednesday that is another sign of growing trade tension between the world's two largest economies. "Having a presence on the Internet that is visible in China is increasingly a critical element for service suppliers aiming to reach Chinese consumers and business," U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Michael Punke said in a letter to his Chinese counterpart on Monday. He added the U.S. government has heard concerns from "a number of service suppliers" about the problem. China bans numerous websites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and some foreign media outlets.

LEBANON / Daughter: Syria holding ex-leader

A former Syrian vice president who became one of the country's most prominent dissidents was kidnapped in Lebanon five months ago while visiting his daughter and is believed to be secretly imprisoned by the Syrian regime as it tries to crush a 7-month-old uprising, his daughter and Lebanese police said. The abduction of Shibli al-Aisamy, an 88-year-old who holds permanent U.S. residency, has raised alarm among some that members of the Lebanese security forces are helping Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in its crackdown on anti-government protesters. Rajaa Sharafeddine said details of her father's case are only coming to light now because police briefed her last week.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC / Illegal-immigrant crackdown vowed

The Dominican Republic announced a new crackdown on illegal immigration Wednesday that will lead to the ouster of thousands of Haitians who escaped a devastating earthquake last year. Any migrants lacking appropriate documents will be deported immediately, said Immigration Director Jose Ricardo Taveras. The plan was signed by President Leonel Fernandez and aims to classify all migrants according to work and migration status.

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