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Obama Hopes to Halve Deficit by 2013



US-ECONOMY: U.S. President Barack Obama will gather a group of lawmakers and economic experts for a meeting Monday to discuss what the White House calls "fiscal responsibility," with details of his 2010 budget plan to be released later in the week.
Administration officials told media outlets Sunday that the president has a plan to cut the huge government budget deficit in half in the next four years.
Business and labor leaders, academics, and select members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will gather at Monday's White House meeting.
Mr. Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress Tuesday about the state of the nation. He is expected to announce details of his budget plans on Thursday.
U.S. media say Mr. Obama plans to cut the deficit by allowing the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, removing troops from Iraq, and cutting government spending.

ASIA-ECONOMY: Asian finance officials meeting in Thailand have agreed to expand a proposed emergency fund for Asian countries hit by the global financial crisis.
Sunday's agreement came at a meeting (in Phuket) of finance officials from China, Japan, South Korea and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The officials backed a plan to increase the size of a proposed emergency fund for Asian countries from $80 billion to $120 billion. The plan is expected to be finalized later this year when the finance officials from the 13 nations meet again in Bali, Indonesia.
The Asian finance officials say 80 percent of the enlarged fund will be contributed by China, Japan and South Korea, the region's three biggest economies. ASEAN members will contribute the rest.

KOREAS-MILITARY: South Korea's defense ministry says North Korea has expanded its ability to wage war by deploying new missiles and increasing the size of its light and mobile elite forces.
In its bi-annual defense white paper released Monday, South Korea said North Korea's new, intermediate-range ballistic missile can travel at least 3,000 kilometers, putting Guam, the northern tip of Australia and much of Russia and India within striking distance.
The report did not present any other details on the new missile, including how many have been deployed.

US-AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN: Foreign ministers from Afghanistan and Pakistan will meet with key U.S. officials in Washington this week. They will take part in the new U.S. administration's review of policy in the region. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is due to meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He will also meet with U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, and other high ranking officials. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta will meet with his U.S. and Pakistani counterparts in three-party talks about fighting terrorism.

ACADEMY AWARDS: Hollywood's most prestigious award ceremony proved to be quite an international affair Sunday night.
The movie "Slumdog Millionaire," a rags-to-riches tale filmed in India, won best picture at the 81st annual Academy Awards (in Los Angeles, California). All told, the film won top honors in eight categories, and the recipients included British and Indian citizens. And the Japanese film "Departures" won for best foreign language film.

The documentary Nerakhoun, or the Betrayal, which is produced by a Lao-American depicting the lives and struggles of Lao refugees in New York, did not win.


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