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World Markets Plunge After Shakeup Of US Financial Companies


WORLD ECONOMY: Stock prices around the world have plunged as the bankruptcy of a major U.S. investment bank and other problems in the U.S. financial sector shook markets for a second day.Major European stock indexes were sharply lower at midday, while a key U.S. share index (the S-and-P 500) was down 11 points, indicating a lower opening for U.S. markets.In Asian markets, Tokyo's Nikkei index closed down nearly five percent, while Hong Kong markets closed down more than five percent on news of Monday's major shakeup in the U.S. financial sector.

IRAQ: General Raymond Odierno has become the top U.S. commander in Iraq, replacing the man credited with helping reduce violence in the country and overseeing the surge of U.S. troops.Odierno replaced General David Petraeus at a ceremony in Baghdad today presided over by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.General Petraeus oversaw a change in U.S. counter-insurgency strategy and the U.S. troop surge when he took command in February 2007. He will now lead the broader U.S. central command, which includes Afghanistan and Iraq.

IRAN - NUCLEAR: The Chinese government says increased United Nations sanctions against Iran will not solve the stalemate regarding the country's nuclear program.U.S. officials raised the possibility of more sanctions Monday after the International Atomic Energy Agency accused Tehran of blocking the investigation into its nuclear activities.Today, China's foreign ministry representative, Jiang Yu, said dialogue between the IAEA and Iran could resolve the issue better than sanctions.In its new report, the IAEA says Iran continues to enrich uranium. U.N. officials say Iran has amassed one-third of the enriched uranium it would need to make a nuclear weapon and could obtain the rest within two years.

SRI LANKA: United Nations aid workers are withdrawing today from northern Sri Lanka, as fighting intensifies between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said late Monday that relief organizations will be allowed back in the region once the rebels are defeated.Mr. Rajapaksa declined to give a firm timeframe, but he said his military will soon destroy the militants. He rejected holding negotiations with the Tamil rebels.Meanwhile today, the military said four people received minor injuries when a bomb exploded inside a public bus in the center of the capital, Colombo.

NIGERIA - UNREST: Militants in Nigeria's oil-rich southern region say they have destroyed a major oil pipeline, as they carry out a stepped-up campaign against the government and foreign oil operations. In an e-mailed statement today, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) claims to have blown up a pipeline belonging to Royal Dutch Shell.In related developments, security forces say they repelled an attack by militants on an oil platform owned by Chevron, and officials said gunmen kidnapped a British oil worker late Monday.

MALAYSIA POL: Malaysia's opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, says he has the support of enough ruling coalition lawmakers to enable him to form a new administration with a slim majority.Anwar told reporters today that more than 31 members of parliament had agreed to defect from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. He did not reveal any names. Anwar told thousands of supporters in Kuala Lumpur Monday that he wants to hold talks with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to orchestrate a smooth transfer of power, instead of forcing the prime minister out through parliamentary measures.

THAILAND POL: Thailand's Supreme Court has issued a second arrest warrant for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who recently fled to exile in Britain.The court said today the warrant was issued because Mr. Thaksin failed to appear at a hearing in one of four pending corruption cases.A first warrant was issued after his departure in connection with a separate case.Mr. Thaksin was deposed as prime minister in 2006 during a bloodless coup, but remains a key figure in Thailand's politics. The court forced his elected successor, Samak Sundaravej, to resign in an ethics case last week.

TAIWAN - TYPHOON: Meteorologists say Sinlaku has weakened to a tropical storm after pounding Taiwan on Monday with typhoon-strength winds and heavy rain. At least five people are dead and several missing in Taiwan.The tropical storm is moving at about 12-kilometers per houras it heads northeast toward southern Japan.In mainland China, state media reports that authorities have evacuated 460,000 people from the low-lying eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian. Xinhua says heavy rains were reported in parts of Fujian and Zhejiang late Monday.

HURRICANE IKE: U.S. President George Bush will fly to his home state of Texas today to visit the cities of Galveston and Houston and inspect the destruction caused by Hurricane Ike.Millions of people remain without power three days after Ike made landfall carrying winds of 175 kilometers an hour. Thousands of people are still in makeshift shelters, and residents are complaining about a growing lack of food, water, gas and other supplies. Officials in Galveston say there is a threat of a growing health crisis.Mr. Bush has promised the federal government will do all it can to assist the victims of Hurricane Ike.

JOLIE - PITT - ETHIOPIA: U.S. superstar couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have donated two million dollars to help children affected by HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Ethiopia.The non-profit Global Health Committee Monday announced the donation by the Jolie-Pitt Foundation. A statement said the money will be used to build a center for AIDS and tuberculosis-affected children in the capital, Addis Ababa. It said the clinic will be named Zahara, after the couple's three-year-old daughter who was adopted from Ethiopia. The clinic will be modeled after a similar health center in Cambodia.

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