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US Report Signals Economic Recession


WORLD ECONOMY: A new report says the U.S. economy declined between July and September -- the strongest indication yet the nation may be sliding into a recession. The U.S. Commerce Department released a report Thursday saying the country's Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, fell by three-tenths of a percent. Consumer spending also has fallen for the first time in about two decades, and business investment has declined. A report by the U.S. Labor Department says more than three-point-seven million Americans are getting unemployment aid, close to a five-year-high.

US POLITICS: U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain will continue their final push for votes today in a number of crucial states that could tip the balance in next week's election. Democratic candidate Obama will hold a rally in the midwestern state of Iowa, followed by a stop in Indiana. Indiana has been a reliable state for Republicans in previous elections, but various opinion polls suggest Obama is in a statistical dead heat with Republican McCain. For his part, McCain will spend another day in the midwestern state of Ohio, where he will hold rallies with Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

US - INT'L CHALLENGES: The top U.S. intelligence official says the next president will face a host of foreign policy challenges, including new and stronger terrorist groups and the growing economic rise of developing nations such as China. Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, shared his views during a speech Thursday at a conference in Nashville, Tennessee. McConnell said conditions are favorable for terrorist groups to grow in number and influence in the Middle East and other areas well into 2025.

CHINA MINE BLAST: Chinese rescue workers in the northern part of the country have removed more than 20 bodies from a coal mine wrecked by a gas explosion earlier in the week. Immediately after the explosion Wednesday, the official Xinhua news agency said one miner was killed and 28 others remained trapped in the coal mine in northern China's Shaanxi province. But the death toll rose to 23 when searchers discovered the bodies today in a shaft. Seven miners escaped. Six men are still missing. China has the world's deadliest coal mines, with thousands of people dying every year in explosions, cave-ins and floods.

PAKISTAN - QUAKE: Thousands of survivors of a strong earthquake in southwestern Pakistan are spending a second night in freezing temperatures, as the death toll from the early Wednesday quake nears 300. Multiple aftershocks continue to rock impoverished Baluchistan province, adding to the misery of villagers who still have not received any help, almost two days after the six-point-four magnitude quake. An estimated 15-thousand Pakistanis lost their homes in the tremor that caused landslides and blocked roads, hampering relief efforts.

INDIA - BLASTS: Indian officials say the death toll from a series of coordinated explosions in the northeastern part of the country has risen to at least 77 people. At least 12 bombs exploded Thursday in four towns in the troubled northeastern state of Assam, wounding more than 330 people. Police said about half the casualties occurred in the state's main city of Guwahati. Local authorities imposed a curfew there after angry crowds attacked police and rescue workers, overturned several government vehicles and ambulances, and torched fire trucks.

AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on Afghanistan's Information Ministry building in Kabul, which killed five people and wounded at least 21 others. Witnesses say at least three militants stormed the building Thursday. They say one of the attackers blew himself up, while the others opened fire on security guards. Kabul's deputy police chief Ali Shah Ahmadzai said the explosion occurred inside a conference room of the information ministry and caused extensive damage to the building and office equipment.

PETRAEUS - NEW COMMAND: The U.S. general widely credited with reducing violence in Iraq takes command today of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia. General David Petraeus will start his command with a thorough review of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. During Petraeus' year-and-a-half in Iraq, violence dropped 80 percent and U.S. troops began to hand responsibility to the new Iraqi forces in much of the country. Petraeus says the Afghanistan war is a very different fight, but he plans to use some of the same strategies he used in Iraq.

AFRICAN - MALARIA STUDY: A new study suggests that the simple use of mosquito netting over children's beds has had a significant impact on malaria infection rates in the African nation of Gambia. The study published today in The Lancet medical journal outlined the efforts of Britain's Medical Research Council to see how well anti-malaria efforts have succeeded since 1999. The researchers examined thousands of records from five hospitals and health clinics in western Gambia.

OIL PRICES - COMPANIES: Higher oil prices are turning into higher profits for the world's leading oil companies, but there are indications the trend may not last. U.S.-based Exxon Mobil says Thursday profits jumped 58 percent to a record 15 billion dollars for the three months from July to September. And Europe's top oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, says its profits for the same period climbed 22 percent (to more than eight billion dollars). Earlier this week, BP and Conoco Phillips also announced a big jump in earnings. The big profits came as crude oil prices hit a record high of more than 147 dollars a barrel in July.

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