BUSH TRIP: U.S. President George Bush has pledged continued security efforts in
Afghanistan during a meeting in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid
Karzai. Mr. Bush told Mr. Karzai today (Monday) that he could
count on the new U.S. administration to keep fighting Afghanistan's
Taliban insurgency. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to
increase troop levels in Afghanistan after he takes office in January. After the meeting, Mr. Karzai awarded Mr. Bush with the Ghazi Amir
Amanullah Khan Insignia for his efforts to rebuild Afghanistan and
fight the country's illegal drug trade. The stop in Afghanistan followed Mr. Bush's Sunday visit to Iraq for farewells with troops and government officials. During a news conference in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a television correspondent called Mr. Bush a "dog" in Arabic and then threw his shoes at the
president. Mr. Bush ducked and the shoes sailed over his head. Security
officials dragged the reporter out of the room, as other Iraqi
THAILAND - POLITICS: The leader of Thailand's opposition won a special parliamentary vote today (Monday) to become the country's third prime minister in less than a year. Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva won 235 votes, as opposed to
198 for the candidate of the former ruling party and its allies,
ex-police chief Pracha Promnog. Hundreds of supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra attempted to block the parliament building following the
vote and smashed windows of cars carrying members of parliament from
Mr. Abhisit's Democrat Party.
Mr. Abhisit, a British-born and educated politician who backed the
anti-government protests that closed Bangkok's airports for eight days
earlier this month, replaces Somchai Wongsawat. Mr. Somchai resigned as
prime minister earlier this month after a court found his party and its
coalition partners guilty of election fraud.
CHINA - TAIWAN: China and Taiwan have launched direct air, sea and postal services for
the first time since the two sides split following a civil war in 1949. A flight left this (Monday) morning from southern China's
city of Shenzhen for Taiwan, while another flight left's Taiwan's
capital, Taipei, for Shanghai on the Chinese mainland. Under an agreement reached in November, the two sides have established
a cargo charter flight service and regular passenger flights, which
used to take off only on weekends and during major festivals. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou presided over a ceremony in the port
city of Kaohsiung to witness the launch of direct shipping links, while
a senior Taiwanese ruling party official participated in a parallel
event in the Chinese port city of Tianjin.
PHILIPPINES - FERRY: Philippine authorities say at least 22 people are dead and 34 others
are missing after a ferry rocked by large waves capsized in the Luzon
strait. The boat was thought to be carrying nearly 100 passengers to the town
of Aparri in Cagayan province when it overturned late Sunday. The Associated Press says most of the 46 survivors swam about a kilometer to shore.
BURMA - THAILAND: Thai police say at least seven Burmese migrant workers have died in a car accident near the Thailand-Burma border. Police say the driver of a pick-up truck, which was carrying some 15
illegal migrant workers, tried to break through a border checkpoint at
high speeds and lost control. The truck slammed into an electricity pylon, killing the driver and
seven migrants. Eight other Burmese migrants were injured in the crash
in Kanchanaburi province. The Thai government says about 500-thousand workers are legally
registered to work in Thailand, a large number of them from Burma. But,
it is believed that more than a million undocumented workers are in the
WORLD ECONOMY: Asian and European stocks rose today on speculation the U.S. Treasurywill step in and bail out ailing automakers. The markets are also reacting to Saturday's announcement by the leaders
of China, Japan and South Korea that they will work to jump start the
world economy. While a plan to help U.S. automakers was blocked in the Senate last
week, President Bush today repeated his support for the idea of using
money originally set aside to shore up the financial sector to assist
the car companies. Mr. Bush said bankruptcy for Chrysler, Ford or General Motors could be devastating for the economy as a whole.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel has began freeing 227 Palestinian prisoners today (Monday), after postponing their release last week. The Israeli government announced last month that it planned to release
about 250 prisoners as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas. Officials had originally said the release could coincide
with last week's Muslim festival, Eid al-Adha.
NEWS UPDATES: ASEAN-CHARTER: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations hassigned a charter that
makes the regional bloc a legal entity for the first time in its four
decade history. The charter was enacted today (Monday) at the group's
headquarters in Jakarta. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
praised the ratification of the document, calling it a momentous day
for the 10-nation body.
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