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Slump in Asian Markets Continues on Fears of Global Recession


WORLD ECONOMY: Asian markets sank today as investors reacted to a series of disappointing profit reports from several major corporations. Tokyo's key Nikkei index closed with a loss of nearly two-and-one-half percent, while the Kospi in Seoul fell nearly seven-and-one-half percent. The index plunged due to falling shares of corporate giants Samsung Electronics and automaker Hyundai. South Korea's currency, the won, also suffered a steep decline in value, along with the euro, Europe's single currency. Markets in Sydney, Wellington and Hong Kong also posted significant losses.

IRAQ: Iraqi officials say a suicide car bomber has struck a government convoy in the capital, Baghdad, killing at least 11 people and wounding 21 others. Officials say the bomber rammed a car into the convoy of Iraq's minister of labor causing an explosion in central Baghdad today. A government spokesman says the minister was not hurt in the attack, but three of his guards were among those killed. Elsewhere today, the U.S. military handed control of Iraq's once violent central Babil province (south of Baghdad) to Iraqi security forces.

PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Pakistani officials say a suspected U.S. drone has fired missiles into a tribal region in the country's northwest, killing at least nine people. Security officials and witnesses say the missiles struck a religious school today in a North Waziristan village near the Afghan border, a stronghold of al-Qaida and Taliban militants. Officials say the school belonged to a man with suspected ties to Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani. There was no immediate confirmation of the strike from U.S. officials. Suspected U.S. drone aircraft have launched about 12 missile strikes against targets in North and South Waziristan in the past two months.

INDIA - EXPLOSION: Indian police say an explosion at an illegal fireworks factory has killed at least 22 people, including 10 children, in western India. Officials say the overnight explosion destroyed a workshop in a residential neighborhood in the town of Deeg, in western Rajasthan state. They say the force of the blast caused at least five surrounding homes to collapse, killing residents and wounding at least 17 other people. The incident comes days before the main Hindu festival of Diwali, when revelers take to the streets to celebrate with fireworks. Many people set up makeshift fireworks factories ahead of the festival.

ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israeli President Shimon Peres is set to meet his Egyptian counterpart to discuss Mideast peace efforts. Mr. Peres' office says he and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will hold talks today in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. Israeli leaders have said they are willing to give serious consideration to a Saudi plan to consolidate peace talks between Israel and Arab nations. The peace deal calls for a pan-Arab recognition of Israel, in exchange for Israel's return of all land it took during the 1967 Six-Day War.

US POLITICS: U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is taking a break from campaigning to fly to Hawaii later today to visit his ailing grandmother. Obama will hold a rally in Indianapolis, Indiana, before heading to the Pacific state to see 85-year-old Madelyn Dunham. The Illinois senator's campaign announced earlier this week that Dunham's health had worsened in recent days, prompting Obama's decision to see her. Media reports say Madelyn Dunham has suffered a broken hip.

CHINA - EU - RIGHTS PRIZE: The European Parliament has awarded its prestigious human rights prize to jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia. Leaders of the assembly's political parties chose Hu Jia to receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought today despite strong pressure from Beijing. Hu is a noted campaigner for civil rights, environmental protection and AIDS advocacy in China. He was arrested last December, charged with subverting state power and sentenced to three-and-half years in prison.

GEORGIA: Georgia says Russia is deploying two-thousand additional troops in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. A Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman voiced concern over the development. He says there are now seven-thousand Russian troops in South Ossetia. Russia invaded Georgia in August when Georgian forces tried to retake the pro-Russian region by force. Moscow has since recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

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