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China's Economic Growth Forecast to Slow


WORLD ECONOMY: The World Bank says it expects China's economic growth will slow next year to its lowest rate in nearly two decades. The bank today cut its 2009 growth forecast for China to seven-point-five percent because of the global financial crisis, nearly two points lower than the expected rate for this year (9.4 percent). World Bank economist Louis Kuijs says China's downturn will worsen in the first half of next year because of weakening export demand. He says that while the China cannot avoid the global financial crisis, it can take steps to minimize its impact on the country.

SOMALIA - PIRATES: A maritime official says Somali pirates have hijacked a Yemeni cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers Assistance Program, identified the vessel today as the MV Amani. It was not immediately clear when the ship was hijacked. Somali pirates have hijacked nearly 40 ships this year. In Malaysia Monday, an international association of tanker owners called for a military blockade along the coast of Somalia. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance is not considering such a move.

ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel's defense ministry says it has has sealed the country's border crossings into the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire. Officials say Palestinian militants fired a rocket toward southern Israel on Monday, however no casualties or damage were reported. It is unclear if or when the borders will reopen. Israel allowed several truckloads of humanitarian aid and other supplies into the area on Monday. International concern about the shortage of basic goods in Gaza has mounted since Israel tightened its blockade of the Palestinian territory November fourth.

KOREAS - TENSIONS: South Korean officials say North Korea has asked for a list by today of who would stay and who would leave a joint industrial park, after Pyongyang said Monday it would scale back the project. Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun says the Stalinist state asked for information about the Kaesong industrial park managers hours after it announced half the South Korean employees would be ejected by December first. On Monday, North Korea also took steps to shut down all tourism and freight traffic through the demilitarized zone, warning it may soon completely sever contacts with South Korea as a response to what it calls South Korea's policy of confrontation.

THAILAND PROTEST: Thai anti-government protesters have besieged the temporary offices of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat during the second day of what they say is their final push to topple the government. Mr. Somchai set up offices at the (Don Muang) domestic airport on the outskirts of the capital, Bangkok, after protesters occupied the prime minister's compound in August. Thailand's main public sector unions last week threatened to send their approximately 200-thousand members out on a nationwide strike today if the country's current administration did not step down.

CHINA - PROTEST: More than 100 protesting taxi drivers have clashed with police in southern China, while hundreds of taxi drivers participated in a strike in central China. Television footage from Hong Kong's Cable TV showed a crowd of protesters pushing, shoving and at times scuffling with police Mondayin the streets of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. The taxi drivers said they are upset about the recent beating of a taxi driver by three drunken men, one of whom claimed to be an official. Chinese authorities say the three who beat up the taxi driver were not officials.

GUANTANAMO RELEASE: U.S. media reports say Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, currently being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, is being transferred to his home country of Yemen. A Guantanamo military jury in August sentenced Hamdan to five years and six months in prison for supporting terrorism. That sentence amounted to five months, taking into account time served. The media reports quote unnamed senior defense officials, who say Hamdan will serve the remainder of his sentence in Yemen. Hamdan was cleared of the more serious charge of being part of al-Qaida's conspiracy to attack the United States.

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