MYANMAR ELECTIONS Myanmar state TV has announced that the country's first election in two decades will be held Nov. 7. The long-awaited announcement on state TV and radio Friday marked the first time the junta has given a date for the polls, which will be the first since 1990. Critics have called the election a sham designed to cement military rule. The military has ruled Myanmar for nearly 50 years.
EX-RUSSIAN PRISONER WANTS TO RETURN Igor Sutyagin tells the New York Times that despite being freed from a Russian prison as part of the "spy-swap" deal, he wants to return home to Russia, and he continues to insist that he's not a spy. He spoke to the newspaper in London, the first time one of the released prisoners has spoken to a Western news organization. Sutyagin has also told Russia's Novaya Gazeta that he US asked for him to be released for humanitarian reasons.
INDIA -- GOOGLE/SKYPE/B'BERRY India may shut down Google and Skype Internet-based messaging services over security concerns, the Financial Times reported on Friday, as the government threatened a similar crackdown on BlackBerry services. The Financial Times quoted from the minutes of a July 12 meeting between telecommunication ministry security officials and operator associations to look at possible solutions to "intercept and monitor" encrypted communications. India has set an Aug 31. deadline for RIM.
U.S. TEENAGER TO NORTH KOREA? A 13-year-old American boy is on a quixotic mission to North Korea, bearing a letter to the communist nation's leader urging the planting of a peace forest on the tense Korean border.
"MECCA TIME" TO REPLACE GMT? The Telegraph reports Saudi Arabia is building a giant clock tower in Mecca, and some Islamic scholars hope that "Mecca time" will replace Greenwich Mean Time as the accepted start of each day. The clock will be at the top of the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, which will be the second tallest building in the world when it's completed and will include hotels, shopping malls and conference centers. The clock will begin ticking on Thursday.
BALLOON FESTIVAL BBC News reports a total of 81 balloons take part in the first mass ascent at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.
FIRES RAGE THROUGH RURAL BRAZIL Fires in Brazil destroyed dozens of sawmills and at least 100 houses, leaving residents to survive on the streets. The state of Mato Grosso is struggling to get the blaze under control as the flames spread fast in the exceptionally dry conditions.
AMERICAN TOPS EVEREST, COMPLETES 'GRAND SLAM' Alison Levine became the first American woman to complete the "Adventure Grand Slam," which entails reaching the highest peak on every continent and skiing to both the North and South poles. It's estimated fewer than 30 people have accomplished the feat.