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Indian Navy Battles Pirates off Somalia Coast


SOMALIA - PIRATES: The Indian navy says one of its warships has destroyed a ship belonging to pirates off the coast of Somalia. Military officials say the Indian naval ship "Tabar" engaged in a brief battle today with a suspected pirate ship accompanied by two speed boats. Military officials say pirates in the main ship fired at the naval vessel, which returned fire, sinking the ship run by the suspected pirates. The incident happened in the Gulf of Aden, where maritime officials say pirates seized three vessels on Tuesday. Authorities say pirates hijacked a Thai fishing boat with a crew of 16, an Iranian cargo ship with a crew of 25, and a Greek bulk carrier with a crew of at least 23.

US ECONOMY: Top executives from troubled U.S. automakers (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) have warned of dire consequences if they do not receive 25 billion dollars in federal aid. The chairman of General Motors (Rick Wagoner) told a Senate committee hearing Tuesday that if domestic automakers go bankrupt, it would have a "catastrophic" effect on the nation's economy. He warned that hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost. Auto executives said their companies have been adversely affected by the global financial crisis and the resulting decrease in consumer spending. But some U.S. senators said the companies' financial troubles are largely due to internal management problems.

CHINA - US - PRODUCT SAFETY: The United States' first overseas product inspection office has been officially opened in China today, part of a new strategy to address risks posed by food and other exports before they arrive on U.S. soil. The Food and Drug Administration's new office in Beijing is the first of three to be established in China. The agency will also open branches in India and Latin America over the next few months. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt was in Beijing to oversee the opening of the FDA office. He says basing U.S. inspection personnel around the world allows them to respond more rapidly to any problems that could occur.

JAPAN - ATTACKS: Japanese authorities have increased security at the health ministry after stabbing attacks at the homes of two former officials who once headed the scandal-tainted pension division. The bodies of former Vice Welfare Minister Takehiko Yamaguchi and his wife Michiko were found Tuesday morning in Saitama, located north of Tokyo. Hours later, the 72-year-old wife of another former vice welfare minister, Kenshi Yoshihara, was stabbed at her home in Tokyo. Police say the wife, Yasuko Yoshihara survived the attack, which was carried out by man in his 30s posing as a delivery man.

CUBA - CHINA: Chinese President Hu Jintao has met with Cuba's ailing former president, Fidel Castro, during a trip to the communist-led island. China's official Xinhua news agency Tuesday released a photo of Mr. Hu shaking hands with Mr. Castro, who appeared thin as he stood next to the Chinese leader dressed in casual clothes. Xinhua also reported that the two men had a long conversation. Mr. Castro has not been seen in public since 2006, when he underwent intestinal surgery and provisionally handed power to his younger brother, Raul. The younger Castro formally took power this past February.

PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. missile strike in volatile northwestern Pakistan has killed at least four alleged militants, including some foreign fighters. They say the missile struck a house in Bannu district, which is part of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and borders semiautonomous tribal areas that have been the target of past U.S. missile strikes. Several people were wounded in the overnight attack. In recent months, Pakistani officials say the United States has carried out some 20 missile strikes in northwest Pakistan, considered a haven for al-Qaida and Taliban-linked fighters.

OBAMA TRANSITION: U.S. Democratic Party officials say President-elect Barack Obama is considering a former Clinton administration official to be the country's next attorney general. Senior party officials on Tuesday confirmed that Mr. Obama has offered the post to Eric Holder, who served as deputy attorney general under former President Bill Clinton. If the appointment is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Holder would be the first African-American to head up the U.S. Justice Department. Officials say Mr. Obama's aides have been talking with senators to determine whether they would support the selection.

MEXICO - DRUGS: Mexican authorities have arrested a top police official for allegedly working with drug cartels. Authorities arrested Ricardo Gutierrez Vargas, Mexico's representative to Interpol, the international police organization. Tuesday's arrest was part of an investigation by the Mexican government into leaks of information to drug gangs. Earlier this month, the top officer of Mexico's federal police force, Gerardo Garay, stepped down following allegations senior officers had helped drug traffickers. President Felipe Calderon's has deployed about 36-thousands troops around the country to battle violent drug gangs.

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