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South Asian countries blame China, not nature, for dryness

BANGKOK — In southern China, the worst drought in at least 50 years has dried up farmers’ fields and left tens of millions of people short of water.

But the drought has also created a major public relations problem for the Chinese government in neighboring countries, where in recent years China has tried to project an image of benevolence and brotherhood.

Farmers and fishermen in countries that share the Mekong River with China, especially Thailand, have lashed out at China over four dams that span the Chinese portion of the 3,000-mile river, despite what appears to be firm scientific evidence that low rainfall is responsible for the plunging levels of the river, not China’s hydroelectric power stations.

This weekend, four affected countries — Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam — are meeting in Thailand to discuss the drought, among other issues.

Afghan president issues sharp rebuke of Western governments

KABUL — Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, delivered extraordinarily harsh criticism Thursday of the Western governments fighting in his country, the United Nations, and the British and American news media, accusing them of perpetrating the fraud that denied him an outright victory in last summer’s presidential elections.

Just days after meeting with President Barack Obama, Karzai, who has increasingly tried to distance himself from his American backers, said the coalition troops risked being seen as invaders rather than saviors of the country.

The speech, later broadcast on local television, seemed a measure of Karzai’s mood in the wake of Obama’s visit, in which Obama rebuked the Afghan president for his failure to reform election rules and crack down on corruption. At points in the speech, Karzai used inflammatory language about the West.

“There is no doubt that the fraud was very widespread, but this fraud was not committed by Afghans, it was committed by foreigners,” Karzai said.

Toyota’s incentives foster jump in auto sales in wake of recall

DETROIT — Toyota’s offers of subsidized leases and interest-free financing prompted a sales surge and touched off an industrywide incentive tussle that drew shoppers into showrooms last month.

Toyota, whose U.S. sales had fallen 12 percent in January and February after it recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide, said Thursday that its March sales rose 41 percent compared with those in the month a year earlier.

Sales of the 14 models that Toyota has recalled since November rose 48 percent last month, with demand for two models on the recall list, the Rav4 and Highlander, more than doubling.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. said its sales rose 40 percent, and General Motors reported a 43 percent increase for its four brands not being shut down or sold. GM’s sales were up 21 percent overall, as Pontiac and the other doomed brands nearly exhausted their remaining inventories. Sales rose 43 percent at Nissan, 22 percent at Honda and 15 percent at Hyundai.

Haitian quake survivors released from Florida immigration jails

More than three dozen Haitian earthquake survivors were released from Florida immigration jails Thursday after more than two months in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Many had lost relatives in the Jan. 12 earthquake; some had been pulled from the rubble themselves. In the chaotic days and aftershocks that followed, many had been seeking security, food or treatment at the Port-au-Prince airport when they were waved onto military transports or other planes by U.S. Marines, only to be detained for lack of visas when they landed.

Lawyers at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, who had urged their release for weeks, were jubilant as they waited with relatives outside the Broward County Transitional Center, a privately operated jail in Pompano Beach, for the last ones to walk out. Immigration officials said 40 Haitian survivors would be released on orders of supervision by nightfall. This came on the day that The New York Times reported that at least 30 earthquake survivors were being detained.

FTC inquiry said to prompt a departure at Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO — Last month, John Doerr, one of America’s most celebrated venture capitalists, announced that he would step down from the board of Amazon, a company that he helped to finance and build. At the time, Amazon said Doerr “has decided not to stand for re-election and will focus more of his time on new ventures.”

But people with direct knowledge of the matter, who would not speak for attribution because they were not authorized to discuss it, now say Doerr’s decision was prompted by a Federal Trade Commission inquiry into the relationship between Amazon and Google, where Doerr is also a director. It was not clear whether the commission had begun a preliminary inquiry or a formal investigation, or whether it was still looking into it.

Doerr, who intends to leave the Amazon board after the annual meeting this year did not respond to a request for comment. Amazon and Google also declined to comment.