News Buzz: Quake's Rising Toll, Myanmar Aid Crisis, and More

The death toll from Monday's earthquake in China could climb to 50,000.

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The death toll from Monday's earthquake in China could climb to 50,000, according to Chinese state television reports. As of this morning, 19,509 people had been confirmed dead, with rescue workers still pulling bodies from the rubble of destroyed buildings. The possibility that additional survivors will be found is shrinking, though not gone: This morning, state media reported that a 22-year-old woman had been pulled alive from debris in the city of Dujiangyan. "Generally speaking, anyone buried in an earthquake can survive without water and food for three days," said Gu Linsheng, a researcher with Tsinghua University's Emergency Management Research Center. "After that, it's usually a miracle for anyone to survive."

Military leaders in Myanmar have issued a public warning to their countrymen, saying that they will take legal action against anyone found hoarding or trading international food aid meant for the victims of Cyclone Nargis, which hit on May 2. The regime, deeply suspicious of foreigners, has hindered international relief efforts but denied that it has been responsible for worsening the humanitarian crisis. "The government has systematically accepted donations and has distributed the relief goods immediately and directly to the victims," it claimed, not noting that is has turned down some assistance from the United States and other nations. The government is reporting that the death toll has passed 43,000, but the United Nations estimates that the actual number of deaths is likely to exceed 100,000. And the U.N. food agency is warning that the country faces prolonged food shortages if farmers are not able to return to their fields soon.

Industrial and manufacturing output in the United States fell sharply in April, reflecting continuing troubles for automakers, miners, and other industries. The Federal Reserve says overall industrial production fell 0.7 percent last month, nearly double the percentage analysts had expected; manufacturing output was down 0.8 percent, as was output from the mining sectors. Those numbers were in line with sizable declines reported in February that eased slightly last month. Another grim statistic: The nation's factories, mines, and utilities are now operating at less than 80 percent of total capacity, the lowest such figure since Hurricane Katrina forced refineries to suspend operations in 2005. Overall, many economists are forecasting slow or anemic growth (and some worry about inflation), but fewer see an outright recession.