GAZA - ISRAEL: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Israel and the Palestinian
group Hamas are "very close" to an agreement on a cease-fire in the
At a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah today,
Mr. Ban urged the parties to conclude their indirect negotiations as
soon as possible. He said he hopes for an agreement over the next few
days, but also said it is time for Israel's government to consider a
unilateral cease-fire. The U.N. chief spoke after meetings with leaders
of the Palestinian Authority.
Fighting continued in Gaza today, with Israeli air strikes pounding 40
Hamas targets before dawn, including smuggling tunnels and rocket
BUSH - FAREWELL: U.S. President George Bush told the American people in his farewell
speech to the nation that he "always acted with the best interests of
our country in mind."
In his last televised address from the White House Thursday night, Mr.
Bush acknowledged he had endured setbacks during his eight-year tenure.
But he said he followed his conscience and did what he believed was
right, and was willing to make "the tough decisions."
The outgoing president reflected on the September 11th, 2001 terrorist
attacks on the United States during his speech.
US PLANE CRASH: U.S. authorities say all 155 people on board a domestic airliner
escaped safely after the plane made a crash-landing into the frigid
waters of the Hudson River in New York City Thursday.
The 150 passengers and five crew climbed onto the wings of the sinking
Airbus or got into inflatable rafts and waited to be picked up by
ferries and tourist boats. Several people suffered from exposure to the
U.S. Airways Flight 1549 splash-landed in the Hudson minutes after
taking off from La Guardia airport. Authorities say the plane may have
struck one or more birds, disabling one or both of its engines.
US - IRAQ: A Pentagon spokesman says U.S. defense officials are drawing up plans
for a quick withdrawal from Iraq, in case the move is ordered by
President-elect Barack Obama.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says a 16-month timeline for the
pullout of U.S. forces was just one of the options being prepared for
Mr. Obama's review, oncehe takes office next week.
Morrell told reporters Thursday it was prudent for the Pentagon to draw
up the plans, considering Mr. Obama campaigned on withdrawing combat
forces from Iraq in less than two years.
There are currently 142-thousand U.S. troops serving in Iraq.
SOMALIA - PIRATES: A top U.S. Navy commander says the United States will soon be able to
move aggressively to capture pirates off the coast of Somalia -- and
bring them to trial.
Vice Admiral William Gortney, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, says the
United States is nearing a deal with an unidentified country in the
region to take captured pirates into custody and try them.
Up until now, no country has been willing to hold the pirates, so the
United States has limited its operations to disrupting and deterring
pirates, but not capturing them.
Admiral Gortney says under the new plan, his forces will arrest suspected pirates even if they are not attacking a ship.
ZIMBABWE CURRENCY: Zimbabwe's reserve bank says it is issuing a new 100-trillion dollar
bank note and other trillion-dollar denominations in a continuing
effort to keep up with the world's highest inflation rate.
In a statement published in today's edition of
the state-run "Herald" newspaper, The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe says the
move is being made to ensure the public has adequate access to cash
Only last week, the bank issued currency with a face value of 50
billion and 20 billion dollars. The government also scrapped limits on
cash withdrawals from banks, allowing workers to withdraw their full
US - BURMA - SANCTIONS: The United States has imposed additional sanctions against key financial backers of Burma's military government.
The action by the U.S. Treasury Department affects two individuals and
14 companies. The Department says the new additions bring the total
number of sanctioned Burmese companies and individuals to 100.
A top Treasury official, Adam Szubin, said Washington will apply
sanctions as long as Burma continues to suppress democratic dissent.
The two individuals penalized Thursday were identified as Zaw Zaw and
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