AFGHANISTAN - JIRGA: Hundreds of Pakistani and Afghan politicians and tribal leaders are in their second day of talks in Kabul to improve border security and strengthen bilateral relations. Delegates say today's session of the four-day peace conference, or jirga, is aimed at dealing with specific issues dividing the two countries. Each country blames the other for a recent surge in violence by Islamic militants along their border. But Ali Muhammad Jan Aurkzai, the governor of Pakistan's violent Northwest Frontier Province, says little progress on the matter can be made unless the outlawed Taleban is invited to participate in the conference.
STOCK DROP: Several Asian stock markets closed sharply lower today following heavy losses in the U.S. and European markets. Problems in the U.S. home loans sector are a growing concern for investors around the globe. South Korean and Australian shares plunged about four percent. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index fell more than two percent to near a five-month low. Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan announced it injected more than eight billion dollars into money markets today. Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down nearly three percent, and European markets were down sharply at midday.
PHILIPPINES - VIOLENCE: The Philippine military says 57 people, including 26 soldiers, have been killed in clashes between government troops and militants on the country's volatile southern island of Jolo. Military officials said today fighting broke out Thursday when rebels from the Abu Sayyaf militant group and Moro National Liberation Front fighters ambushed a group of soldiers transporting supplies. At least 31 rebels have been killed in the fighting. The clashes are the latest in a recent wave of violence in the southern Philippines and more troops are being deployed to respond to the surge in violence.
KOREAS - US - MILITARY: North Korea says a planned joint military exercise between U.S. and South Korean forces late this month could derail a deal to end Pyongyang's nuclear program. North Korea's Central News Agency issued a statement today by the North Korean army saying that the U.S. will be held responsible for the "catastrophic impact" the joint military exercises will have on the implementation of the February 13th nuclear disarmament deal. KCNA said the statement was handed to the U.S. military officials at a meeting of colonels from the North Korean military and U.S. forces in South Korea at the truce village of Panmumjom.
CHINA - TIANANMEN: A Hong Kong-based human rights group says a Chinese man jailed for his involvement in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests has been released from prison after 18 years. The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said today that Xi Haoliang was released from a Beijing prison Tuesday. Xi is reported to have joined a crowd burning debris to prevent troops from entering Tiananmen Square on the morning of June fourth, 1989. His actions led to a death sentence, which was later commuted to a prison term. Chinese troops and tanks killed hundreds and possibly thousands of demonstrators in 1989 in Beijing, putting a brutal end to weeks of peaceful protests in Tiananmen Square.
JAPAN - NUCLEAR PLANT: U.N. inspectors say the world's largest nuclear plant, damaged weeks ago by an earthquake in Japan, will be closed for months while more checks are done. An assessment team from the International Atomic Energy Agency spent four days inspecting the (Kashiwazaki-Kariwa) nuclear power plant. An inspection official said today further checks must be carried out before the plant reopens. The facility caught fire and leaked a small amount of radiation following a powerful earthquake July 16th. At least 11 people were killed in the quake in incidents not related to the nuclear facility.
EAST TIMOR - VIOLENCE: Police in East Timor says at least one thousand people have fled their homes because of violence that has followed the appointment of a new prime minister. Authorities said today that at least 200 homes have been set on fire this week in the eastern district of Viqueque. The violence began after East Timor independence leader Xanana Gusmao was named the new prime minister early this week. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in Dili Tuesday. Earlier, mobs torched a government building in the capital and set tires on fire.
US - MINE COLLAPSE: Mining officials in the U.S. (western) state of Utah say rescue workers have drilled to the underground chamber where six coal miners are believed to be trapped. At a news conference early today, mine owner Robert Murray said a small hole has been drilled through the rock, creating an opening to establish communication with the miners. Murray says that while there has been no noise from inside the chamber, air quality readings suggest the mine's atmosphere is perfect to sustain human life. Engineers are drilling a larger hole wide enough to accommodate food and water, but are hours away from reaching the underground chamber.
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