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President Obama Pledges Recovery of American Economy


OBAMA - SPEECH: U.S. President Barack Obama says the struggling American economy will recover and "emerge stronger than before." In his first speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress late Tuesday, Mr. Obama said years of irresponsibility, indecision and short-term thinking have led to a "day of reckoning" for the world's biggest economy. However, he stressed that the country can, and will rebound. Mr. Obama said the $787 billion economic stimulus plan he signed last week is a first step toward recovery. But he emphasized the need for further action on heath care, energy and education.

OBAMA - FOREIGN POLICY: U.S. President Barack Obama emphasized that the United States will work to strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements at its disposal, particularly negotiation, in its foreign policy efforts. In his first address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, Mr. Obama said he will soon announce a strategy to responsibly end the war in Iraq. He noted that the U.S. is carefully reviewing its policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The president added that the U.S. is also working with allies to forge a new, comprehensive strategy to defeat al-Qaida and combat extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

JAPAN - ECONOMY: Japan posted a record trade deficit in January, as the global economic recession continues to strangle the world's second-largest economy. According to a report issued Wednesday by the Finance Ministry, exports plunged nearly 46 percent from the same period in 2008. The collapse in exports widened the trade deficit to nearly 10 billion dollars, the largest amount since the government first began compiling data in 1979. It was the fourth straight month Tokyo has recorded a trade imbalance. The ministry says exports to the United States dropped 53 percent, while its trade surplus with the U.S. fell 75 percent to 1.3 billion dollars.

HONG KONG - ECONOMY: Hong Kong's chief financial officer says the territory's economy will shrink between two and three percent in 2009, the first decline since the Asian financial crisis in 1998. Financial Secretary John Tsang issued the gloomy economic outlook in his annual budget speech Wednesday. Hong Kong's economy has been battered by a drop in exports to the United States and Europe due to the global economic recession. Tsang says the territory's gross domestic product plunged 2.5 percent in the last three months of 2008. Unemployment also rose to 4.6 percent in the three months to the end of January.

THAILAND PROTESTS: A group of anti-government protesters have staged a brief demonstration outside Thailand's foreign ministry, calling on the country's top diplomat to resign. Hundreds of members of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) marched on the foreign ministry offices in Bangkok Wednesday from the main government house, which they have surrounded since Tuesday. They are calling for Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to step down. The supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra are also demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the dissolution of Parliament and new elections.

BANGLADESH - UNREST: Bangladeshi officials say Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is negotiating with representatives of the country's border guards who are staging a mutiny in the capital, Dhaka. Details of the talks at Ms. Hasina's official residence were not immediately disclosed. Medical sources in Bangladesh say one person is dead, and at least six people wounded, since the outbreak of violence at the paramilitary force's headquarters in the capital. Armed government troops have taken positions in the streets of Dhaka in an effort to quell the rebellion.

US AFGHANISTAN PAKISTAN: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Tuesday to discuss how to deal with extremist violence in Pakistan's tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. The meeting was part of U.S. President Barack Obama's policy review of the Afghan conflict and related unrest in Pakistan. In a brief news conference after the meeting, Clinton promised an open and consultative review process with the Pakistani and Afghan governments. Qureshi reiterated Islamabad's commitment to fight extremism and its willingness to work with the U.S. administration.

NETHERLANDS - TURKEY - PLANE CRASH: A Turkish Airlines passenger plane has crashed while attempting to land at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. The plane hit the ground next to a runway Wednesday, breaking into three parts. Turkish officials none of the 135 passengers or eight crew members on board were killed. Dozens have been safely evacuated from the aircraft and 20 people were injured. Airport officials in Turkey said the plane departed from Istanbul Wednesday morning.

BRITAIN - BISHOP: A British bishop whose denial of the Holocaust caused an international uproar has arrived in London after expulsion from Argentina. Traditionalist Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson returned to Britain Wednesday. He had received worldwide criticism that followed a television interview in which he asserted that no Jews were gassed during the Holocaust. He also said that no more than 300,000 Jews died in Germany's Nazi concentration camps, rather than the 6 million death toll that is widely accepted.

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