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Palin, Biden Clash on Economy, Iraq, Other Issues


US POLITICS: U.S. vice presidential candidates Sarah Palin, a Republican, and Democrat Joe Biden have clashed over Iraq, the economy, and other issues in their only scheduled debate. Palin said Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq amounts to a "white flag of surrender." Senator Biden said Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, has been "dead wrong" on the conduct of the war, and said he and Obama are committed to bringing the troops home. The current economic crisis was the early focus in the much-anticipated 90-minute televised debate in St. Louis, Missouri.

WORLD ECONOMY: Support for a 700-billion dollar plan to rescue the U.S. financial sector appears to be growing in the U.S. House of Representatives ahead of today's expected vote on the bailout package. Several Democratic and Republican lawmakers who voted against an earlier version of the plan on Monday now say they will approve the measure. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he thinks there is a "good prospect" the bill will be approved. The plan includes a number of amendments designed to attract the support of reluctant lawmakers. They include relief for millions of middle-income Americans from a tax aimed at wealthier citizens and additional tax breaks for alternative energy companies.

NOKOR NUCLEAR: U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill says he held "substantive" talks with North Korea during his recent visit to Pyongyang aimed reviving a faltering deal for dismantling the country's nuclear program. Hill met with reporters in Seoul today, shortly after returning from a three-day meeting in Pyongyang with his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye Kwan. But he declined to say if any real progress had been made to resolve the standoff. Hill is expected to brief his South Korean and Japanese counterparts (Kim Sook and Akitaka Saiki) about his visit.

CHINA - MILK: Philippine health officials say two Chinese-made milk products have tested positive for an industrial chemical that has sickened thousands of children and triggered China's latest product safety scandal. Health Secretary Francisco Duque says the two products were among 30 that have been removed from Philippine stores and tested for melamine. Duque says the products were smuggled into the country after Manila imposed a ban on Chinese milk products two weeks ago. He says the 28 products have been cleared for sale, while 200 other products will undergo testing.

VIETNAM - CATHOLICS: Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has warned Roman Catholics against holding mass protests to demand the return of church land seized 50 years ago. The state-run Vietnam News Agency quotes the prime minister as saying that such protests could have an "adverse impact" on the relationship between the church and the state. He said Vietnam's constitution does not recognize a right to own land as private property. At issue is slightly less than a hectare of then-Vatican land in Hanoi that Vietnamese communists seized after winning independence from France in 1954.

BRITAIN POL: British media report Prime Minister Gordon Brown is reshuffling his cabinet and has selected a new business secretary. Reports say Peter Mandelson, an EU trade commissioner, is replacing Business Secretary John Hutton, who will become the new defense secretary. Mandelson was twice a cabinet minister under Mr. Blair, but was forced to resign both times - because of a home loan scandal and for intervening in a passport application. His appointment is part of a cabinet reshuffle aimed at strengthening the government to help Brown deal with the domestic repercussions of the global financial crisis.

IRAQ: The U.S. military in Iraq says it has captured 18 suspects during operations targeting al-Qaida. A military statement issued today says coalition forces captured one wanted man believed to be a local commander, or "emir", for a terrorist organization associated with al-Qaida. Two additional suspects were detained during the operation in Bayji, which is 160 kilometers south of Mosul. The rest of the suspects were detained in three separate operations targeting alleged al-Qaida operatives in other parts of Iraq. The U.S. military also says coalition forces captured five people suspected of being involved in smuggling Iranian-supplied lethal aid, such as weapons, into Iraq.

US - INDIA NUCLEAR: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is traveling to India today for talks on the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement that received final congressional approval on Wednesday. Rice has hailed the deal as a historic breakthrough. She says it brings together the world's largest democracy with the world's oldest continuous democracy. Secretary Rice will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and will meet with opposition leaders. India's ruling Congress party says the U.S. Senate's approval of the nuclear pact is a monumental achievement.

Listen to our World News for details.

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