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Big, Big Meeting on Iran Nuclear Program Today

Baghdad is ground zero for some major nuclear diplomacy between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (USA, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany). Word is leaking of a potential olive branch extended by the USA at the talks: “The United States and its negotiating partners have agreed on a detailed confidence-building proposal to present to Iran at nuclear negotiations due to get underway in Baghdad Wednesday. The proposed package is an updated version of a 2009 uranium fuel swap plan that takes into account Iran’s progress in enriching uranium, American and European diplomats said. While the details of the proposed package have not been made public, Western officials told Al Monitor that the package does not include sanctions relief at this stage. Instead, the United States and its P5+1 partners will offer fuel for Tehran’s Research Reactor (TRR) plus safety upgrades to the plant, which is of 1960s vintage. Also potentially on the table: new research reactors that use lower level 3.5 percent enriched uranium, safety upgrades for Iran’s one functioning nuclear power plant at Bushehr and spare parts for its accident-plagued fleet of civilian airliners. In return, Iran must stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent and halt activities at Fordow, an enrichment facility built into a mountain near Qom. It is not clear whether Iran would also have to send out its stockpile of more than 100 kg of the fuel.” (AI Backchannel http://bit.ly/Jbkn2e)

Egypt’s Historic Day

Presidential elections kick off! “It will be the first time, ever, that the Arab world’s most populous country has chosen its leader without knowing in advance who the winner would be. Campaigning ended 48 hours ago, but the so-called ‘electoral silence’ is in fact a noisy cacophony of people enjoying free political debate and facing a genuine, if bewildering, choice. Over tea and nargileh pipes across the land, from dirt-poor villages to the glittering malls of the wealthy elite, Egyptians are discussing their vote….Of the 13 candidates vying to trigger the long-awaited transfer from military to civilian rule, five matter. Three of those – the former foreign minister Amr Moussa, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and the independent Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh could, in theory, win outright – given the volatility of the polls and the sheer novelty of the situation.Two others are contenders for a more likely runoff in mid-June: these are Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, and the independent leftist Hamdeen Sabahy, who invokes the tradition of Gamal Abdel Nasser and is closest to the revolutionary spirit that has faded since the heady days of last spring.” (The Guardian http://bit.ly/Jbo5cc)

Fake Anti-malarials Flood Markets, Causing Concerns for Malaria Reduction

There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about this new study from the Lancet, not least of which is the potential rise in drug resistance. “The study found around 36 percent of anti-malarial drugs analysed in southeast Asia were fake, while a third of samples in sub-Saharan Africa failed chemical testing because they contained either too much or not enough active ingredient. The researchers said the problem might be even bigger. The emergence of resistance to artemisinin drugs – currently the most effective treatment for malaria – along the Thailand-Cambodia border – has already been documented…Data from seven countries in southeast Asia – including from analysis of 1,437 samples of seven different malaria drugs – showed that more than a third of them failed chemical testing, nearly half were wrongly packaged, and about a third were bogus. Analysis of data from 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa including more than 2,500 drug samples, showed similar results, with more than a third failing chemical testing and around one fifth turning out to be fake.” (Reuters http://bit.ly/JbkYkF)

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