For at least the third time in two months, Pakistani authorities closed the main supply route for deliveries of food, fuel, and other supplies to coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan. One administrator said the move was necessary because Pakistan's Army had begun a new offensive against militants along the border. US commanders in Afghanistan say they have adequate stocks to continue their mission but are exploring new supply routes.
Making his required first policy address, new Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pledged to heal the nation's deep political divisions and "help the country weather economic hardship." But critics noted that opposition pressure – thousands of demonstrators have been blocking Parliament – caused him to give the speech at the Foreign Ministry. A spokesman for the protesters said they wouldn't have harmed Abhisit; they only wanted him to have to walk through their midst.
Voters in Bangladesh gave former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's alliance a landslide victory in the first election there in seven years. But she asked supporters not to celebrate publicly out of worry that doing so could cause violent confrontations with backers of the rival Nationalist Party. The Election Commission said her Awami League and its partners were headed for a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Analysts cautioned that the size of the victory may raise expectations that she'll be able to deliver on all her campaign promises.
A new pro-India coalition was poised to assume control of Kashmir's government, based on the outcome of elections in the Muslim-majority state that ended last week. But while its charismatic chief minister pledged to work for unity with Muslim separatists, a spokesman for the latter dismissed the coalition as a reshuffling of the same faces and ideologies. The voting was largely peaceful, although more than 50 people were killed in weeks of protest against Indian rule.
Thousands of Ghanians thronged the nation's electoral commission headquarters Tuesday, expecting to hear opposition leader John Atta Mills declared the winner of the presidential runoff election. As vote-counting neared completion, he led ruling party candidate Nana Akufo-Addo 52.1 percent to 47.9 percent. But Akufo-Addo's New Patriotic Party alleged irregularities and was expected to demand a recount.
Despite a 1.3 percent gain as trading ended Tuesday, Japan's Nikkei stock index had the worst year in its history. The average, one of the world's most influential benchmarks, lost 42 percent of its value due to plummeting demand for Japanese exports (especially cars and electronics) and the surging value of the yen against other currencies. Trading on the Tokyo exchange will resume Monday.
Led by the cyclone that struck coastal Burma (Myanmar) last May, the Szechuan earthquake in China days later, and hurricane Ike in early September, natural disasters made 2008 the third-costliest year on record, reinsurance giant Munich Re reported. It said Asia was the hardest-hit in terms of loss of life. Overall insured losses, Munich Re said, will come to about $200 billion, with uninsured losses adding another $45 billion. Reinsurance allows insurance companies to protect themselves against the impact of claims by buying coverage from other companies.
Search teams recovered the remains of all but one of eight snowmobilers buried under avalanches in British Columbia. The remaining man wasn't expected to be found alive. All were experienced outdoorsmen and were carrying proper safety gear, reports said. But they became trapped by two massive snow slides within minutes of each other. The region was blanketed by more than two feet of snow over Christmas week.