Global drop of 25% in state executions

Amnesty International said yesterday that state-ordered executions fell more than 25 percent last year compared with 2005, while China remains the country that most uses capital punishment.

More than 1,000 of the 1,591 executions in 2006, compared with 2,148 in 2005, occurred in China, concluded Amnesty's annual statistical report on the use of the death penalty. China, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and the United States committed 91 percent of all executions last year, Amnesty said.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty last year. "It should be a continuing source of national shame that the United States remains on the list of the world's top executing countries," wrote Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. - Bloomberg

Despite U.S. effort, cocaine price drops

BOGOTA, Colombia - Cocaine prices in the United States have dropped and the drug's purity increased, despite years of effort and nearly $5 billion spent by the United States to combat Colombia's drug industry, the White House drug czar said.

The drug czar, John Walters, wrote Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R., Iowa) that retail cocaine prices fell by 11 percent from February 2005 to October 2006, to about $135 per gram of pure cocaine - hovering near the same levels since the early 1990s. In 1981, when the United States. began collecting data, a gram of pure cocaine fetched $600.

Colombia supplies 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. Several household and school-based surveys show that U.S. cocaine consumption has barely budged since 2000. - AP

Genealogy Web site to supply slave data

LONDON - A genealogy Web site said yesterday it would post three million names of slaves held across the British Empire in the early 19th century, putting hundreds of thousands of pages online to help slaves' descendants research their past.

The project will use registers that the British government created between 1813 and 1834 to end the slave trade by ensuring plantation owners did not buy new slaves.

Britain abolished the trade in 1807. Slavery itself was outlawed in the colonies 17 years later. Information will be made available online for free, in the next 12 months, said Simon Ziviani, spokesman for Ancestry.co.uk. - AP

Elsewhere:

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said yesterday a planned U.S. missile shield in Central Europe would merely extend American control deep into Russian airspace, not deter Iran as Washington claims. The dispute escalated Thursday when Putin threatened to pull out of a key European arms-control treaty if no agreement was reached.

A Spanish judge indicted three U.S. soldiers yesterday in the 2003 death of a Spanish journalist who was killed when their tank fired at a Baghdad hotel.

The explosive-laden wreck of a World War II torpedo boat has risen from the Pacific Ocean off the Solomon Islands, pushed above the water by a powerful earthquake, an official said.