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Officials: At Least 160 Dead in Pakistan Earthquake


PAKISTAN - EARTHQUAKE: Pakistani officials say an earthquake in the southwestern part of the country has killed at least 160 people, and that figure is expected to rise as emergency workers dig through rubble for survivors and victims. The U.S. Geological Survey says the six-point-four-magnitude quake struck a region (less than 100 kilometers) northeast of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, before dawn today. The quake destroyed mud homes in at least eight villages in the remote region near Afghanistan, forcing panic-stricken people to gather in the chilly night to wait for assistance.

WORLD ECONOMY: European markets opened mixed today, following gains in Tokyo and Hong Kong. Markets in London and Paris are up five and six percent, while Frankfurt is down nearly two percent. Tokyo's Nikkei index rallied late in the day to close up nearly seven-and-three-quarters percent, following speculation that Japan's central bank might cut interest rates. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong finished about one percent higher. An announcement by the U.S. central bank on interest rates is expected later today. Rate cuts reduce the cost of borrowing and can boost economic activity.

US POLITICS: Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Democratic rival Barack Obama are keeping the focus on U.S. economic concerns, with the election less than a week away. McCain tore into his opponent's tax plans during a rally Tuesday in Pennsylvania - a state considered crucial to victory and where Obama is ahead in the polls. The Arizona Republican lawmaker told supporters Senator Obama plans to redistribute wealth by raising taxes. At his own campaign stop in Pennsylvania, Obama said he will give a tax break to 95 percent of working class Americans.

CHINA - DALAI LAMA: China says it will hold a new round of talks "in the near future" with representatives of the Dalai Lama, days after the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said he was losing faith in the dialogue process. A statement released by the government today through the official Xinhua news agency urged the Dalai Lama to "treasure this opportunity." Chinese officials said Tuesday the two sides are discussing details of the upcoming talks. They have held several meetings since a series of deadly anti-Chinese protests in Tibet in March. Last week, the Nobel Peace laureate said his efforts to bring positive change in his homeland have failed, and it was up to the Tibetan people to decide on an alternative.

CHINA - CLIMATE CHANGE: China says its dependence on coal will make it difficult for the nation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a major policy report issued today in Beijing, the government acknowledges the impact that climate change has made on the nation. It cites increased high temperatures, heavy precipitation and severe droughts. But the report says China's coal-dominated energy sector cannot be "substantially changed in the near future."

CHINA - FOOD SAFETY: Authorities in Hong Kong say they have discovered more eggs from mainland China contaminated with an industrial chemical that has sparked Beijing's latest product safety scandal. Authorities say the eggs were processed by a plant based in the central Chinese province of Hubei. Tests found nearly three parts per million of melamine in the batch, just above Hong Kong's legal limit of two-point-five parts per million. This is the second batch of tainted eggs discovered in Hong Kong in recent days.

SOUTH KOREA - IRAQ: South Korea says it will withdraw the last of its military forces from Iraq by mid-December. A spokesman for the Defense Ministry says troops will hand over the mission in the northern city of Irbil to U.S. forces in early December, and return to South Korea by December 20th. South Korea initially sent 36-hundred troops to Iraq to support the U.S.-led invasion in 2004, making it the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq. The troops were deployed under a one-year mandate, which has been extended for the past four years.

PAKISTAN - US: Pakistan's foreign ministry says it has summoned the U.S. ambassador and lodged a strong protest against U.S. missile strikes inside Pakistani territory. In a statement issued today, the ministry says Pakistan called for an immediate end to unmanned aircraft (drone) missile attacks, saying they are killing people and destroying property. It added that such attacks are a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, and that they undermine public support for the government's counter-terrorism efforts. The ministry said officials emphasized these points when speaking to U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson.

MALDIVES ELECTION: The Maldives' incumbent president has conceded defeat after officials announced preliminary results from Tuesday's run-off election in the Indian Ocean nation. Speaking on national radio today, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom congratulated opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed on his victory. Thousands of cheering Nasheed supporters took to the streets to celebrate his win in the nation's first democratic presidential election. Preliminary results released today indicate Nasheed, a former political prisoner, won 54 percent of the vote.

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