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Asian and European Markets sharply Lower


WORLD ECONOMY: European stock markets are sharply lower in midday trading today (Monday), continuing the day's slide that began in the Asia-Pacific region. Crude oil prices are also falling to less than 60 dollars a barrel in London trading today, despite OPEC's decision last week to cut production targets. The CAC-40 in Paris is down more than five percent, while the DAX index in Frankfurt is off more than three percent. The Financial Times 100 index in London is down nearly four percent.
Japan's Nikkei index closed at a 26-year low despite the government announcement of measures intended to support the country's stock market. Japan's finance minister (Shoichi Nakagawa) said the government is ready to take action to steady the yen, as the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors released a statement saying recent excessive swings in the yen's value threaten global financial and economicstability.

US POLITICS: U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama campaign today (Monday) in two populous states seen as crucial to victory in the November fourth election. Both will hold campaign rallies in (the eastern U.S. state of) Pennsylvania and (the Midwestern state of) Ohio. Aides for Senator Obama say he will make what they call his "closing argument" in speeches today - just eight days before the election. Senator McCain will continue what his campaign calls "Road to Victory" rallies. The Republican candidate trails his Democratic rival in virtually every public opinion poll.

SYRIA ATTACK: Syria has accused the United States of killing eight civilians in a military raid on Syrian territory, eight kilometers from the border with Iraq. The Syrian Foreign Ministry called envoys from the U.S. and Iraq to discuss Sunday's alleged attack. Syrian officials called it an act of aggression and a violation of national sovereignty. The government in Damascus said it holds the U.S. military responsible for any repercussions.
The U.S. military in Iraq says it does not have any information on the incident. And the U.S. government has not confirmed the attack nor commented on the allegations. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh today (Monday) said the raid targeted an area of Syria where insurgents plot attacks against Iraq. Syria says four U.S. helicopters took part in the raid Sunday on the town of Abu Kamal. It says U.S. soldiers emerged from the aircraft, stormed a civilian building that was under construction and fired on the workers.

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan authorities say a suicide bomber wearing a policeman's uniform blew himself up inside a police station where U.S. troops were advising Afghan officers today (Monday). Two U.S. soldiers were killed and several other people were wounded in the blast in the northern province of Baghlan. The Taliban promptly claimed responsibility for the attack.
In other violence today, the U.S. military says militants and coalition troops aboard a helicopter exchanged fire today (Monday) in the central province of Wardak. The aircraft was hit, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing.

PAKISTAN UNREST: Pakistani security officials say two missiles fired by a suspected U.S. drone hit a militant compound in the tribal region near the Afghan border late Sunday, killing as many as 20 people. The officials say the compound is located in South Waziristan -- a stronghold of Pakistan's top Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud. There was no immediate confirmation on the strike from the United States. A similar air strike last Thursday in North Waziristan on a religious school -- belonging to a cleric linked to Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani -- killed at least 11 people.

KOREAS - MILITARY: North Korea has threatened to expel South Koreans working in the North if Seoul does not stop activists from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border. South Korean defense officials say the North made the demand today (Monday) during a brief round of military talks at the border. The North complained that the spread of leaflets was on the rise, and told South Korean military officials that it would expel workers from an industrial park in the North's border city of Kaesong if the practice is not stopped.
South Korean officials said they have appealed to activists to stop sending balloons with leaflets across the border. Groups in South Korea have been sending leaflets for years.
Today's talks were the second official meeting between the North and South since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February.

BURMA - WOMEN'S RIGHTS: International rights groups have submitted reports to a top U.N. body on women's rights in Burma, arguing that the country's new constitution fails to promote gender equality. The Women's League of Burma argues in a statement today (Monday) that Burma's new constitution does not promote equality because it guarantees the military control of a quarter of seats in parliament. The group says the face of public life in Burma is male because Burmese society is profoundly militarized and the military is an almost exclusively male institution.
The Global Justice Center has called on the U.N.'s Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee to reject Burma's report to the body.
The group notes that not only does the military not comply with the convention's recommendations, but government leaders are unwilling to prosecute state perpetrators of rape and other crimes.

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