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New questions arose about the health of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il after TV footage appeared to show that he didn't attend a huge New Year's rally in his honor in the capital, Pyongyang. Kim has not been seen at a public event since before North Korea's 60th independence day last September, and intelligence reports have suggested that he underwent brain surgery following a stroke. On Tuesday, the government released what it said were new photos of him visiting a new power plant, and later, a couple whose residence is heated by it. But the pictures did not specify an exact location or date.

In a stark warning, the magazine of the official Xinhua news agency said China faces "a peak period" for riots and protests this year. What the communist regime calls "mass incidents" will come, it said, from ongoing anger over official corruption, from the politically sensitive 20th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing, and especially from the faltering economy, which is leading to millions of lost jobs.

Government forces in Sri Lanka claimed another major victory over Tamil rebels, the capture of much of a strategic causeway linking the mainland to the separatist enclave on the Jaffna Peninsula. If confirmed, this would allow the government forces to link up with fellow troops who've been cut off from the mainland by rebel positions on Jaffna, analysts said. Last week, the Army took the rebel capital, Kilinochchi.

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