US ECONOMY: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says a final vote on President
Barack Obama's economic stimulus package could happen as early as today.
The final vote is looming after senators unanimously approved an
amendment Wednesday to provide a 15-thousand dollar tax credit for
The provision, sponsored by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, would
add 19-billion dollars to Mr. Obama's 900-billion dollar plan.
The Senate also unanimously approved a change in the so-called "Buy
American" provision that passed in the U.S. House version of the plan.
IRAQ: Iraq is awaiting the results of Saturday's provincial election, the country's first since 2005. Official results are due later today, and lawmakers say early signs indicate a good showing for the coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Authorities have boosted security in the western province of Anbar amid allegations from local Sunni tribal leaders of fraud in Saturday's vote. U.S. and Iraqi officials are warning of possible violence by those who are unhappy with the results. The stakes are particularly high in the Sunni-dominated province.
SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's military says more than 700 civilians have fled to a government-controlled safe zone to escape fighting in the north. A brief statement from the army said the civilians escaped today from Tamil Tiger rebel-held territory around Mullaittivu, which has seen intense battles for several weeks. Several senior government officials today rejected a U.S. call for talks with the Tamil Tigers and are vowing to press on with the offensive until the separatist rebel movement is crushed. The United Nations and other relief agencies say about 250-thousand civilians are trapped alongside the rebels in a 300-square-kilometer swath of jungle, and civilian casualties have been rising.
CHINA - DROUGHT: Chinese officials say millions of hectares of farmland in at least eight rural provinces are threatened by a lengthy drought.
The Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief says the dry spell
that began in November has affected nine million hectares of winter
wheat crops, and left nearly four million people without proper
Authorities say the worst-affected provinces are Henan and Anhui, where
the drought has affected more than 60 percent of the winter wheat crop.
The agency says the drought is one "rarely seen in history."
MALAYSIA - POLITICS: Malaysia's ruling party will regain power in a key state it lost in last year's parliamentary elections.
The sultan of northern Perak state has ordered chief minister Nizar
Jamaluddin and his top administrators to resign their posts. The order
comes days after at least three lawmakers abruptly quit the coalition
and declared themselves independent.
The lawmakers are members of a three-party opposition coalition that
handed the ruling National Front coalition its worst electoral defeat
in decades last March. The National Front lost its two-thirds majority
in parliament, as well as control of Perak and four other states.
US - KYRGYZSTAN: Kyrgyzstan's parliament is preparing to vote on the closure of a U.S.
military air base that supplies U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.
The government Wednesday submitted a draft bill on closing the base to
parliament. The deputy head of the ruling party told the
Reuters news agency that lawmakers are likely to vote on the measure
Hours after the draft was submitted, Moscow said it is open to U.S.
requests to route supplies for Afghanistan across Russia.
US CHENEY INTERVIEW: Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney says he believes there is a
"high probability" that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic attack
on the United States in the near future.
Cheney, who left office with President George Bush on January 20th,
told the "Politico" online news magazine that he fears the Obama
administration's policies will make it more likely such an attack would
In an interview published Wednesday, Cheney defended the existence of
the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He said he believes
about 200 detainees still housed there pose a significant threat to the
US - CHILDREN'S HEALTH: U.S. President Barack Obama has signed into law a children's health
insurance bill that will extend government benefits to four million
more needy children over the next five years.
Mr. Obama said the new law is a sign of his commitment to extend health
care coverage to every American.
Mr. Obama signed the bill Wednesday, shortly after the House of
Representatives approved it. The Senate approved the bill last week.
President Bush twice vetoed a similar bill. Critics say the program
will pay for health care for children whose families make enough money
to buy private insurance.
UN - INDIA - CLIMATE: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says climate change will increase
poverty, destabilize economies and breed insecurity unless the world
acts aggressively to stop it.
The secretary general spoke in New Delhi at the opening of a three-day conference on sustainable development.
He said climate change threatens to undermine progress toward development goals.
Mr. Ban called on political leaders to reach an agreement on reducing
carbon emissions ahead of a crucial meeting in Copenhagen in December.
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