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February 24, 2009

US stock markets fall to lowest levels since 1997

US stock markets fall to lowest levels since 1997

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2008–09 financial crisis

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Logarithmic graph of the Dow from January 2000 through December 2008

Three major United States stock market indexes closed at their lowest levels in over a decade on Monday, amidst declining investor confidence and worries that the government will nationalize the banks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 3.41%, or 251.4 points, to end the day at 7,114.3, its lowest level since October 1997. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index lost 26 points or 3.5% to a level of 743.33, its lowest level since April 1997. The Russel 2000 Index of smaller companies dropped by four percent.

The three stock market indexes have been falling for the last six days.

The Nasdaq Composite index lost 53.5 points, or 3.71%, closing at 1,387.7. However, the index remained above its November 20, 2008 low of 1316.12.

Despite the worries about the banks, bank shares climbed today. Bank of America shares rose by 3.2%, whilst Citigroup gained 9.7%. However, stocks for both banks have plunged more than 68% this year-to-date.

“People left and right are throwing in the towel. The biggest thing I see here is the incredible pessimism — the government is doing a lousy job of alleviating fears,” said Keith Springer of Capital Financial Advisory Services.

“Many investors simply can’t contemplate any more stock market risk in their portfolios. Sentiment in the market is very weak and negative,” said the senior market strategist for Invesco AIM, Fritz Meyer.



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Rocket carrying NASA carbon dioxide satellite crashes into ocean

Rocket carrying NASA carbon dioxide satellite crashes into ocean

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The launch of the observatory.
Image: NASA.

The rocket carrying NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory has crashed, sending the remains of the atmosphere observation satellite into the ocean off the coast of Antarctica. Shortly before the crash, the ‘payload fairing’ failed to deploy from the craft.

“Several minutes into the flight of the Taurus rocket carrying NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory spacecraft, launch managers declared a contingency after the payload fairing failed to separate,” said NASA in a statement on their website. “The spacecraft did not reach orbit and likely landed in the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica”. The cause of the failure to deploy and the crash are still under investigation.

“A Mishap Investigation Board will be immediately convened to determine the cause of the launch failure,” added the statement.

Artist rendition of OCO.
Image: NASA.

Steve Cole, a spokesperson for NASA told Bloomberg L.P., “the mission is lost. At this point no one is exactly sure what the cause is”. The rocket that would have carried the observatory into space, a Taurus XL, took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in the United States, at approximately 4:55 a.m. EST. Approximately 10 minutes into the mission, the payload failed to separate and a contingency was activated, but was unsuccessful.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory was the latest mission in NASA’s ongoing study of the global carbon cycle. It would have been the first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide, the most significant human-produced greenhouse gas and the principal human-produced driver of climate change. The cost of the project was US$273 million.



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AU peacekeepers killed in Somalia, Islamists vow more attacks

AU peacekeepers killed in Somalia, Islamists vow more attacks

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Somalia
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Location of Somalia

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On Sunday, suicide bombers killed 11 African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Somalia and injured at least 15 others. Two bombers drove a truck loaded with explosives into the AU camp housing Burundi soldiers in Mogadishu and detonated it.

“These attacks have reached today an unprecedented level, resulting in the killing of 11 Burundian soldiers, while 15 others have sustained serious injuries,” the African Union said in a statement. Troops were unloading supplies for their camp when militants drove a truck into the camp, then detonating it.

“Attacks by these evil forces will not deter Burundi or the African Union to help Somalis. We will reinforce our contingent with material and personnel,” the Burundi government said.

A remnant of earlier combat as photographed in 2007.
Image: Carl Montgomery.

Al-Shabaab, a Somali militia, claimed responsibility. The group’s leader, Mukhtar Robow, issued a statement after the attack warning residents and troops to “go home, otherwise you will meet our hell”. Al-Shabaab is considered to be formed from remnants of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The group claims that at least 52 people were killed and 34 others injured in the suicide attack.

“This is our land and you are non-believers,” read an Al-Shabaab statement in Somali on a website used by the militants. “Leave us for your safety or we shall never tire of increasing your death toll.” The site showed images of the alleged militants responsible for the attack.

Recently, other Islamist groups have pledged loyalty to President Sharif Ahmed, also formerly of the ICU, though considered a moderate. Al-Shabaab has rejected his government, which won a January 31 election.

“They are trying to destabilize the situation and take away attention from the good news,” said Susannah Price, a spokesperson for the United Nations.

There are 3,400 Burundi and Uganda troops in Somalia, however, the AU peacekeeping force is supposed to number 8,000.



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