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Asian Markets Fall After More Bad News of US Economy


WORLD ECONOMY: Asian stocks are slumping today as investors react to more bad news about the U.S. economy. Japan's key Nikkei market lost more than 200 points in today's trading, while markets in Seoul and Shanghai are also posting losses. Shares of some of Asia's leading companies are leading the downturn. Japanese automaker Toyota lost four percent, one day after forecasting its first operating loss in seven decades. The U.S. government released figures Tuesday showing the nation's gross domestic product declined by a half-percent in the third quarter (July, August and September) of this year.

GUINEA POL - ARMY: A military group claiming to have seized control of Guinea says it will hold elections in two years. The group announced its election plan on state radio today, a day after declaring that a 32-member council had taken over the government. The military officials took action just hours after the death of longtime leader Lansana Conte. The political situation in the mineral-rich country is still unclear, however. Guinea's prime minister, army chief and speaker of the National Assembly say the civilian government is still in power. The African Union is holding an emergency session on Guinea today.

ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel has canceled plans to allow deliveries of supplies to the Gaza Strip after Hamas fighters pounded southern Israel with mortars and rockets. Israel had said it would allow humanitarian aid and commercial goods to enter the Gaza Strip today out of respect for a temporary cease-fire with the Palestinian Hamas militant group. But the country called off the deliveries after Hamas attacked the Jewish state today in retaliation for the killing of three militants by the Israeli army Tuesday. Israeli officials have not reported any casualties, but say the bombardment damaged a house in Ashkelon.

IRAQ: Iraq's parliament has approved a measure allowing British and other non-U.S. foreign troops to stay in the country after the end of the year. Lawmakers overwhelming voted Tuesday in favor of the measure,shortly after Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani resigned. In a farewell speech, Mashhadani, a controversial Sunni politician whose insults of fellow lawmakers last week disrupted debate on the issue, apologized for his behavior. The arrangement allows some four thousand British troops, as well as smaller forces from Australia, Estonia and Romania, to operate in Iraq until July.

INDIA - KASHMIR: Indian-administered Kashmir has heightened security for the final round of voting in state elections. Thousands of troops are patrolling the summer capital, Srinagar, and the Hindu-majority city of Jammu, today to try to prevent disruption by militants fighting Indian rule. Witnesses say at least nine people were injured when police used batons to disperse stone-throwing protesters in some voting areas. But no major clashes have been reported. Separatist groups have called for a boycott of the elections, which they say serve to legitimize Indian control of Kashmir.

PHILIPPINES - SWISS: A Swiss court has opened the door for the Philippines to recover about five-million dollars in bank deposits linked to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The court Tuesday rejected a legal challenge to the transfer of the funds. The money has been frozen since 1986 and the unidentified account holder plans to appeal to the supreme court. Marcos and many senior members of his government are believed to have deposited billions of dollars in stolen public funds in banks around the world. Switzerland has already returned hundreds of millions of dollars. Marcos was overthrown in 1986 and died three years later.

US - NORTH KOREA: The Bush administration says it will continue food aid to North Korea despite an impasse in talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said today that Washington will ship 21-thousand tons of food aid to North Korea by the end of this month. He says the aid will be distributed through the U.N. World Food Program and U.S. aid groups. McCormack says a U.S. team recently visited North Korea to try to ensure that food aid is reaching the people who need it. He says the U.S. has delivered 143-thousand tons of food aid to North Korea so far, and plans to raise that figure to half-a-million tons.

MALARIA - RESEARCH: U.S. researches say modifying the environment with simple tools such as shovels, plows and pesticides can be a significant factor in the fight against malaria. The researchers say physical changes to the land, such as leveling the ground, could help in the battle against the disease. Changing the land can eliminate standing water that is a favorite breeding spot for mosquitoes which transmit malaria to humans. They also say planting certain types of locally grown vegetation can limit the growth of mosquitoes.

OBAMA - INAUGURATION: President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn-in to the executive office with the Bible that Abraham Lincoln used to take the oath of office more than a century ago. The presidential inaugural committee says Mr. Obama will be the first president sworn-in with that Bible since President Lincoln used it in 1861. Mr. Obama is to become the first African-American president of the United States. The Bible, bound in burgundy velvet and with gilded edges, is housed with the U.S. Library of Congress.

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