US ECONOMY - POL: U.S. President Barack Obama says he hopes an economic stimulus plan
passed by the House of Representatives can be improved before he has a
chance to sign it into law.
The House approved the 819-billion-dollar economic recovery plan
Wednesday without a single Republican crossing party lines to vote for
it. Mr. Obama had been hoping to win broad bipartisan support for the
Republicans said the package contained too much wasteful spending and not enough tax cuts.
The Senate is crafting its own version -- which includes an additional
70 billion dollars in tax cuts -- and will debate the measure next week.
WORLD ECONOMY: Asian markets are on the rise today as investors
cheered Wednesday's approval by the U.S. House of Representatives of
President Barack Obama's 819 billion dollar stimulus plan.
Japan's key Nikkei index rose more than one-and-three-quarters percent
to finish at eight-thousand-251 points. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index
rose more than five percent following a three-day closure to celebrate
the Lunar New Year. Share prices also rose in Seoul, Sydney and
But as stocks rose, Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan said there is a
need for countries to act early and use bold measures to bolster their
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israeli warplanes have carried out more airstrikes on militant targets
in the Gaza Strip after militants fired two rockets into southern
Palestinian witnesses say Israeli aircraft struck the southern Gaza
town of Khan Younis today, wounding six Palestinians,
including a man and several school children. In other airstrikes since
Wednesday, Israel has attacked what it calls
a weapons factory and smuggling tunnels linking Gaza with Egypt.
Gaza militants have fired two rockets into southern Israel since
Wednesday -- the first such attacks since Gaza's Hamas rulers and
Israel declared unilateral cease-fires on January 18th.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan's electoral commission announced today that it
is postponing the country's presidential election until August 20th.
The vote was initially scheduled to take place in May, but Afghan
officials say the security situation prompted the delay.
Election officials delayed voter registration last week, citing
security concerns in some parts of the south. Taliban fighters in the
south have intensified attacks against Afghan and international forces
in the past year.
The upcoming vote will be the second presidential election in the
SRI LANKA: The United Nations says it has evacuated hundreds of civilians wounded
during battles between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels
in the country's north.
The U.N. said the wounded, including 50 children, were moved out of the
war zone today, after being blocked for two days by the
A Tamil Tiger official, quoted on a pro-rebel Web
sitedenied the allegations.
Rights group Amnesty International has said both the Sri Lankan
government and the Tamil Tiger rebels are violating the laws of war by
targeting civilians and preventing them from escaping to safety.
JAPAN - EXECUTION: Japan executed four convicted murderers today.
Officials with the Justice Ministry say the four condemned inmates were
hanged at three detention facilities. Among those executed was
32-year-old Shojiro Nishimoto, who was convicted of killing four people
in a robbery.
The four inmates are the first to be executed in Japan since October.
Capital punishment is widely supported in Japan, but human rights
groups have criticized the way it is carried out. Condemned inmates are
often executed without prior notice and family members are not notified
until after the executions have been carried out.
IRAQ: The Iraqi government says U.S. security firm Blackwater is no longer
authorized to operate in Iraq, where it provides protection to U.S.
Baghdad has accused Blackwater security guards of unlawfully killing 17 Iraqi civilians in a 2007 Baghdad shooting.
Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said today that Blackwater's Iraqi license has expired and Baghdad will not renew
it. Iraq won that authority in a security pact with the United States
that took force this month.
ZIMBABWE - FOOD: The World Health Organization says more than one half of Zimbabwe's
population will need emergency food aid before the next harvest in
The UN agency's estimate, released today, says
35 percent more people will need assistance than last year. It will
feed more than five million people while other groups are expected to
feed another one-point-eight million out of the country's population of
On Wednesday, the WHO said the death toll from the cholera epidemic in
Zimbabwe topped three-thousand. A total of 57-thousand Zimbabweans have
been infected since the outbreak began in August.
THAILAND - BURMA: Thai authorities have granted the United Nations refugee agency access
to 12 ethnic Burmese boat people who are being held in custody in
A spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Kitty
McKinsey, says the team was allowed to visit 12 of the 78 Rohingya
migrants that are being held.
McKinsey says the team interviewed the boys aged between 14 to 17 in the southern coastal province of Ranong.
The team was allowed to use their own translator, but watched by Thai
immigration officials. (News Updates)
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