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
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
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
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
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