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>>Iraq – Kurdish lawmakers boycotted critical legislation Tuesday that sets new rules for provincial elections. The sticking point was the status of Kirkuk, which Kurdish lawmakers believe should come under the control of their autonomous region. The bill, which would bring more power to Iraq’s regions and empower Sunnis, is now unlikely to be ratified by the Presidency Council, headed by President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd.

>>Thailand/Cambodia – Thousands of Thai and Cambodia troops have moved into disputed land near the Preah Vihear temple on the border. Tensions were sparked when UNESCO listed the temple as a Cambodian World Heritage Site, which prompted protests by local Thais and their subsequent arrest by Cambodian authorities. Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has suggested that Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen is just using the row to gin up votes for the imminent general election.

>>India – India’s government survived a vote of confidence on Tuesday, clearing the way for a controversial nuclear energy deal with the United States. At one point during the debate, opposition members carried duffel bags full of cash into parliament, alleging that it had been used to try to buy votes. Under the deal, which still needs to be approved by the IAEA, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and the U.S. Congress, India would open its civilian nuclear reactors to international inspectors in exchange for the ability to develop its civilian nuclear program without having to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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>>China – Chinese authorities are evacuating 150,000 citizens who are threatened by a gigantic lake that formed in Tangjiashan when a river was blocked by mudslides set loose by the earthquakes this month. Engineers continue to dig drainage areas in hopes that the lake’s size might be decreased. Meanwhile, a 5.4 magnitude aftershock destroyed 420,000 houses in Sichuan’s Qingchuan county and injured 63. China is seeking help from Japan’s military.

>>Israel – Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak called for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to step down today, a day after American businessman Morris Talansky testified in a Jerusalem District Court that he had handed Olmert envelopes full of up to $150,000 in cash. Both Olmert and Talansky have admitted the transfer but denied it was a bribe.

>>Syria – In a meeting with British members of Parliament, including the Interior Minister, Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad said that Syria intends to maintain normal relations with Iran while negotiating with Israel, contrary to Israel’s demand that it abandon its alliance. The two nations confirmed indirect talks last week, the first since 2000.

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>>Lebanon – After five hard-fought days of negotiation in Doha, Hezbollah and Lebanon’s government have agreed to a final agreement to end the 18-month political crisis. Under the agreement General Michel Suleiman, the commander of the Army, will be elected President in the next few days. Also, Hezbollah and its allies will be given an apportionment of cabinet seats sufficient to sustain a veto. And, a new electoral law, governing representative in the government, will be put up for debate.

>>Spain – A joint operation between French and Spanish authorities nabbed Francisco Javier Lopez Pena (aka Thierry), the top political leader of the Basque separatist group ETA, in Bordeaux. Pena is thought to have led ETA since the failed 2006 peace negotiations. He is also thought to have ordered the 2006 bombing of the Madrid airport, which ended a nine-month ceasefire.

>>Uganda – According to foreign investigators and humanitarian groups, the Lord’s Resistance Army has stepped up its campaign of child abduction over the last month, scooping up over 100 children from the Congo, Uganda, and the Central African Republic who will likely be pressed into service or used as sex slaves. This occurred during international efforts to finalize a peace agreement between the LRA and the Ugandan government.

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>>China – Yesterday, fighting heavy rain and destroyed roads, rescuers finally reached the epicenter of the earthquake in Wenchuan county, where as many as 60,000 people are still missing. By some estimates, the overall death toll is already north of 15,000. China’s central government has sent $160 million and 50,000 troops in relief.

>>Myanmar – Aid workers in Myanamar are concerned that even the small amount of aid they have been able to get to the capital is not being delivered it to its intended destination, a duty that the military junta has reserved for itself. The British Perm Rep to the UN has received unconfirmed reports that aid is being redirected away from victims. Meanwhile, the junta is still blocking large-scale aid drops and has refused U.S. offers of assistance, as well as those of China, Bangladesh, Singapore, and Thailand. Over 11,000 U.S. troops are in Thailand conducting a military exercise. Also, on Monday Doctors Without Borders was ordered out of the Irrawaddy Delta, and less than half of the visa applications for UN relief officials have been processed.

>>Middle East – President Bush landed in Tel Aviv this morning, to begin a five-country, three-day tour of the Middle East. He has already met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and plans to meet with Mahmoud Abbas later in the week at Sharm el-Sheikh. The trip coincides with the 60th anniversary of Israel.

>>Colombia – Colombia extradited 14 paramilitary leaders to the U.S. yesterday, an unprecedented action at a time when Colombia is hoping for a trade deal with the U.S. The men will face drug-trafficking charges. Such extraditions are controversial in Colombia and among the human rights community as the prisoners will only serve time for breaking U.S. law not atrocities committed in Colombia. Though they may end up spending more time in jail in the U.S. and, after extradition, are less able to command their networks, which has been a major problem when they were held in Colombian prisons.

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>>Myanmar – The first aid supplies are on their way to Myanmar in a UN plane as the military junta continues to drag its feet on large-scale international aid. The first shipment includes high-energy biscuits, medical kits, and tents. The World Food Program says that two more planes are expected to follow. The UN is still waiting for visas for 40 of its disaster relief experts. The U.S. embassy in Myanmar stated yesterday that the death toll could be as high as 100,000, and France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has suggested the UN bypass the junta to deliver aid, evoking the “responsibility to protect” clause.

>>Burundi – A day after the Forces for National Liberation, the remaining active rebel group, agreed to implement a peace deal, Burundi’s army killed 50 FNL fighters in a gun fight outside of Bujumbura. Both sides claim they were provoked. The people of Burundi have suffered under a decade-long civil war between the Hutu majority and Tutsi minority that has left over 300,000 dead.

>>Israel – Celebrations have begun in Israel to mark its 60th anniversary. President Bush will visit next week. Palestinians, on the other hand, are holding solemn marches in the West Bank to mark the day they call al-Nakba, or “the Catastrophe.” The celebrations are also overshadowed by a continuing corruption probe against Prime Minister Olmert, which prompted him to cancel the customary interviews granted to local media on independence day.

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>>Lebanon – Gunmen supportive of Hezbollah and those of the U.S.-backed government clashed in the streets of Beirut today. Hezbollah supporters blocked the main roads with barricades made of old cars and burning tires. Yesterday the government accused Hezbollah of violating Lebanon’s sovereignty by operating its own telecommunications network, which the government has said it will shut down, and installing spy cameras at the airport.

>>Chile – The once-thought-dormant Chaitén volcano in southern Chile erupted again yesterday, blasting ash and lava dozens of miles into the air. Residents living withing a 30-mile radius were evacuated, and, with the help of navy warships, moved to Patagonia. Since it began on Friday, the eruption has covered a 60-square-mile block with 15 inches of ash, destroying farmland, rendering the air unbreathable, contaminated water supplies, and making rescue efforts difficult.

>>Myanmar – As the death toll in the wake of Cyclone Nargis (damage graphic) rises to 22,500, Myanmar’s military junta is experiencing increased pressure from abroad to further open its doors to international aid. The World Food Program has said that as many as a million people have lost their homes. Over 24 million people live in the declared disaster areas. A UN assessment team is still waiting on their visas. Some, including President Bush speaking yesterday in Washington, have also taken the opportunity to press on political reforms.

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>>Georgia – Russia has accused Georgia of amassing 1,500 soldiers in the upper Kodori gorge and threatened to retaliate if Georgia uses force in Abkhazi. Russia also stated that it is increasing its force levels in Abkhazi and South Ossetia. Georgia denies that it is building up troops and called the Russian action a pure provocation. EU foreign policy minister Javier Solana urged restraint during a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia has kept a peacekeeping force in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the 1990s, when the regions broke away from Tbilisi and formed links with Moscow. There are around 2,000 Russians posted in Abkhazia and about 1,000 in South Ossetia.

>>India – President Ahmadenijad met with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday in an attempt to seal a $7.6 billion pipeline deal, under the strenuous objection of the U.S. The pipeline would be completed by 2012 and would initially transport 60 million cubic meters of gas a day to Pakistan and India. The U.S. had suggested that India instead use Ahmadenijad’s visit to press Iran to stop nuclear enrichment. India responded that it didn’t need any “guidance” in bilateral relations.

>>Turkey – Turkey’s parliament has approved legislation that softens penalties the EU has criticized for limiting free speech. Since 2003, Article 301 of the penal code has been used to prosecute hundreds, including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, for “insulting Turkishness.” Critics contend that the softening didn’t go far enough; insulting the Turkish nation still carries a two-year penalty.

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>>Georgia – Russia has accused Georgia of amassing 1,500 soldiers in the upper Kodori gorge and threatened to retaliate if Georgia uses force in Abkhazi. Russia also stated that it is increasing its force levels in Abkhazi and South Ossetia. Georgia denies that it is building up troops and called the Russian action a pure provocation. EU foreign policy minister Javier Solana urged restraint during a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia has kept a peacekeeping force in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the 1990s, when the regions broke away from Tbilisi and formed links with Moscow. There are around 2,000 Russians posted in Abkhazia and about 1,000 in South Ossetia.

>>India – President Ahmadenijad met with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday in an attempt to seal a $7.6 billion pipeline deal, under the strenuous objection of the U.S. The pipeline would be completed by 2012 and would initially transport 60 million cubic meters of gas a day to Pakistan and India. The U.S. had suggested that India instead use Ahmadenijad’s visit to press Iran to stop nuclear enrichment. India responded that it didn’t need any “guidance” in bilateral relations.

>>Turkey – Turkey’s parliament has approved legislation that softens penalties the EU has criticized for limiting free speech. Since 2003, Article 301 of the penal code has been used to prosecute hundreds, including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, for “insulting Turkishness.” Critics contend that the softening didn’t go far enough; insulting the Turkish nation still carries a two-year penalty.

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>>U.S. – Authorities announced yesterday that they had arrested Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. army engineer, on charges of supplying classified documents to Israel, including information on nuclear weaponry, the F-15 fighter jet, and the Patriot missile defense system. The hand-off allegedly occurred at the army weapons research center in Dover, Del., where Kadish worked from 1979 to 1985. His handler is said to be the same who worked with Jonathan Pollard.

>>Australia – The Olympic torch has arrived in Australia, which has enacted “unprecedented” security measures to keep protesters at bay. The torch was immediately whisked to an undisclosed location and will be guarded by hundreds of police along its 10-mile relay route. Pro-Tibet demonstrators have already beamed a laser sign onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge reading “Don’t Torch Tibet,” and a group of Tibetan exiles on hunger strike just completed a nearly 50-mile march to Canberra, where they are now involved in a candle-light vigil outside the Chinese embassy.

>>Zimbabwe – China may give up on a shipment of arms to Zimbabwe, due to protests across southern Africa, which have kept the ship from docking at a suitable port. South Africa’s supreme court ruled last Friday that the arms could not be transported from Durban, the ship’s original destination, to Zimbabwe, after an Anglican bishop argued that they would likely be used to crush the opposition. South Africa’s dock workers union also said they would refuse to unload the shipment. President Mwanawasa of Zambia, head of the Southern African Development Community, called on other southern Africa nations to deny the ship harbor. It is currently idling off the east coast of southern Africa.

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>>U.S. – Authorities announced yesterday that they had arrested Ben-Ami Kadish, a former U.S. army engineer, on charges of supplying classified documents to Israel, including information on nuclear weaponry, the F-15 fighter jet, and the Patriot missile defense system. The hand-off allegedly occurred at the army weapons research center in Dover, Del., where Kadish worked from 1979 to 1985. His handler is said to be the same who worked with Jonathan Pollard.

>>Australia – The Olympic torch has arrived in Australia, which has enacted “unprecedented” security measures to keep protesters at bay. The torch was immediately whisked to an undisclosed location and will be guarded by hundreds of police along its 10-mile relay route. Pro-Tibet demonstrators have already beamed a laser sign onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge reading “Don’t Torch Tibet,” and a group of Tibetan exiles on hunger strike just completed a nearly 50-mile march to Canberra, where they are now involved in a candle-light vigil outside the Chinese embassy.

>>Zimbabwe – China may give up on a shipment of arms to Zimbabwe, due to protests across southern Africa, which have kept the ship from docking at a suitable port. South Africa’s supreme court ruled last Friday that the arms could not be transported from Durban, the ship’s original destination, to Zimbabwe, after an Anglican bishop argued that they would likely be used to crush the opposition. South Africa’s dock workers union also said they would refuse to unload the shipment. President Mwanawasa of Zambia, head of the Southern African Development Community, called on other southern Africa nations to deny the ship harbor. It is currently idling off the east coast of southern Africa.

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>>Russia – Vladimir Putin has confirmed that he will accept the reigns as head of United Russia, the nation’s dominant political party, as well as become prime minister of Russia, at the end of his presidency. Putin, however, will not become a member of that party. Some analysts see these developments as an important step toward Russia becoming more of a parliamentary democracy.

>>Olympics – The Olympic torch began its journey through Asia yesterday in Pakistan. It will continue on to India. Both nations “trimmed” their torch routes in fear of interruptions by protesters. The New York Times reports on the interesting history of the torch relay.

>>Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s Joint Operations Command, including the military, police, and intelligence agencies, took complete, though some say “temporary,” control over the national decision-making process in the days following the presidential election, according to a remarkable story in the Washington Post. That includes decisions of the electoral commission, which still refuses to release results from the election. According to sources in the article, the apparatus intends to relinquish control to Mugabe when it is no longer threatened by Tsvangirai, an individual with no military background. Also, a protest called by the opposition yesterday failed to take off.

>>Gaza – Jimmy Carter will meet with two senior Hamas officials in Cairo on Wednesday. Both the U.S. and Israel have called on the former president to shun the group. Government ministers refused to meet with him during his stay in Israel this week. Carter has billed his trip as a “study” mission.

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>>Russia – Vladimir Putin has confirmed that he will accept the reigns as head of United Russia, the nation’s dominant political party, as well as become prime minister of Russia, at the end of his presidency. Putin, however, will not become a member of that party. Some analysts see these developments as an important step toward Russia becoming more of a parliamentary democracy.

>>Olympics – The Olympic torch began its journey through Asia yesterday in Pakistan. It will continue on to India. Both nations “trimmed” their torch routes in fear of interruptions by protesters. The New York Times reports on the interesting history of the torch relay.

>>Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s Joint Operations Command, including the military, police, and intelligence agencies, took complete, though some say “temporary,” control over the national decision-making process in the days following the presidential election, according to a remarkable story in the Washington Post. That includes decisions of the electoral commission, which still refuses to release results from the election. According to sources in the article, the apparatus intends to relinquish control to Mugabe when it is no longer threatened by Tsvangirai, an individual with no military background. Also, a protest called by the opposition yesterday failed to take off.

>>Gaza – Jimmy Carter will meet with two senior Hamas officials in Cairo on Wednesday. Both the U.S. and Israel have called on the former president to shun the group. Government ministers refused to meet with him during his stay in Israel this week. Carter has billed his trip as a “study” mission.

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>>Iraq – General Petreaus, testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees yesterday, announced a pause in U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq that would be, at minimum, 45 days, but could last indefinitely. He also testified that “we haven’t turned any corners. We haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel.” The three U.S. presidential candidates all questioned Petreaus. The lucky winner in November will now, because of the pause, be guaranteed of inheriting a 100,000-strong troop presence in Iraq.

>>Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s supreme court ruled yesterday that it would urgently address the opposition’s application for an immediate release of the presidential election results. Also yesterday, South African president Thabo Mbeki said he will meet
with opposition leader Tsvangirai, who met with ANC leader Jacob Zuma on Monday. The situation in Zimbabwe continues to grow more dire as the opposition has reported violent attacks on its supporters, organized gangs continue to drive
white farmers off their land
, and election officials have been arrested for allegedly “undercounting
Mugabe
.”

>>Korea – U.S. Envoy Christopher Hill announced that progress had been made in talks between the U.S. and North Korea regarding the latter’s delayed declaration of its nuclear activities. However, he cautioned that there had net yet been a “breakthrough.” Meanwhile, North Korea announced that their compensation from the U.S. for a satisfactory declaration had been agreed upon.

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>>Iraq – General Petreaus, testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees yesterday, announced a pause in U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq that would be, at minimum, 45 days, but could last indefinitely. He also testified that “we haven’t turned any corners. We haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel.” The three U.S. presidential candidates all questioned Petreaus. The lucky winner in November will now, because of the pause, be guaranteed of inheriting a 100,000-strong troop presence in Iraq.

>>Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s supreme court ruled yesterday that it would urgently address the opposition’s application for an immediate release of the presidential election results. Also yesterday, South African president Thabo Mbeki said he will meet
with opposition leader Tsvangirai, who met with ANC leader Jacob Zuma on Monday. The situation in Zimbabwe continues to grow more dire as the opposition has reported violent attacks on its supporters, organized gangs continue to drive
white farmers off their land
, and election officials have been arrested for allegedly “undercounting
Mugabe
.”

>>Korea – U.S. Envoy Christopher Hill announced that progress had been made in talks between the U.S. and North Korea regarding the latter’s delayed declaration of its nuclear activities. However, he cautioned that there had net yet been a “breakthrough.” Meanwhile, North Korea announced that their compensation from the U.S. for a satisfactory declaration had been agreed upon.

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>>Zimbabwe – Despite reports yesterday that President Robert Mugabe would step down after 28 years in power, Zimbabwe’s state-run newspaper has reported that a runoff
will be held
as opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai failed to garner over 50 percent of the vote. Yesterday’s reports had suggested that Mugabe thought a runoff would be “demeaning” and that he would
rather step down. Both parties have denied the existence of a deal or any negotiations in an attempt to broker a deal. Meanwhile, reports continue to suggest that Zimbabwe’s ruling elite is fracturing
and has begun to reach out to the opposition for an equitable solution.

>>Olympics – Amnesty International has released a report that says China’s human rights record has been getting worse not better in the run up to the Olympics, citing the pre-Olympics “clean-up” of Beijing and crackdowns in Tibet. Nancy Pelosi, who just met with the Dalai Lama, suggested on Tuesday that President Bush should consider skipping
the opening ceremonies
. Meanwhile, China has accused
the Dalai Lama and his followers of building arsenals in preparation for an escalation of the conflict, which the Chinese say could include suicide attacks. China’s president Hu Jintao ordered his security forces to place top priority on the Olympic games in August because “without security guarantees the national image will be lost.” India’s Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee warned the Dalai Lama against damaging political activity directed at China.

>>NATO – In remarks prior to the opening of a three-day NATO summit in Bucharest, President Bush reiterated his support for Georgia’s and the Ukraine’s membership in the body and pressed France and Germany to do the same. This sets up a potentially contentious discussion at the opening dinner where the Summit’s agreements will be decided. NATO decisions require unanimity among the members.

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>>Zimbabwe – Despite reports yesterday that President Robert Mugabe would step down after 28 years in power, Zimbabwe’s state-run newspaper has reported that a runoff
will be held
as opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai failed to garner over 50 percent of the vote. Yesterday’s reports had suggested that Mugabe thought a runoff would be “demeaning” and that he would
rather step down. Both parties have denied the existence of a deal or any negotiations in an attempt to broker a deal. Meanwhile, reports continue to suggest that Zimbabwe’s ruling elite is fracturing
and has begun to reach out to the opposition for an equitable solution.

>>Olympics – Amnesty International has released a report that says China’s human rights record has been getting worse not better in the run up to the Olympics, citing the pre-Olympics “clean-up” of Beijing and crackdowns in Tibet. Nancy Pelosi, who just met with the Dalai Lama, suggested on Tuesday that President Bush should consider skipping
the opening ceremonies
. Meanwhile, China has accused
the Dalai Lama and his followers of building arsenals in preparation for an escalation of the conflict, which the Chinese say could include suicide attacks. China’s president Hu Jintao ordered his security forces to place top priority on the Olympic games in August because “without security guarantees the national image will be lost.” India’s Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee warned the Dalai Lama against damaging political activity directed at China.

>>NATO – In remarks prior to the opening of a three-day NATO summit in Bucharest, President Bush reiterated his support for Georgia’s and the Ukraine’s membership in the body and pressed France and Germany to do the same. This sets up a potentially contentious discussion at the opening dinner where the Summit’s agreements will be decided. NATO decisions require unanimity among the members.

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Barak Obama takes on race in America.

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>>Iraq – The Iraq war has now entered its sixth year. The New York Times is providing a series of stories looking back at various aspects of the last five years including an interactive timeline of important events, an analysis of how cost estimates got so off track, and insight into the war’s role in the 2008 presidential campaign. The Guardian probes the true death toll. Meanwhile, the “Reconciliation Conference” intended to bring Iraq’s factions together is instead highlighting their differences.

>>Kuwait – Kuwait’s ruler,
Sheikh Sabah, dissolved parliament today after the cabinet quit on Monday amid complaints about the lack of parliamentary cooperation on an agenda to diversify the economy. New elections will be called in less than two months.

>>Tibet – The Chinese state media has announced that 100 Tibetan protestors have turned themselves in. Meanwhile, Tibetans on horseback raided government offices in Gansu. China has also said that the Olympic torch will travel through Tibet (and summit Mt. Everest) as planned.

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Obama wins the Mississippi primary.

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>>United States – Admiral James “Fox” Fallon, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East best known for his outspoken statements that seemingly, put him at odds with the Administration, retired prematurely yesterday. According to the New York Times, Fallon “emphasized diplomacy over conflict in dealing with Iran,” “endorsed further troop withdrawals from Iraq beyond those already under way,” and “suggested the United States had taken its eye off the military mission in Afghanistan.” Last week Esquire published “The Man Between War and Peace,” which suggested that Fallon was the one person who could stop a U.S. war with Iran. Fallon distanced himself from the article. The New York Times quotes a “senior Administration official,” who says Fallon’s comments “left the perception he had a different foreign policy than the president.”

>>Israel/PalestineReports suggest that Israel is pushing for a 30-day “trial period” of quiet before committing to the full ceasefire that Egypt is attempting to broker. Likewise, Hamas set its own terms, which include an end to Israeli raids in Gaza and the reopening of the borders. Prospects for such an agreement were rendered more tenuous yesterday when, for the first time in a week, militants fired a missile from Gaza toward the Israeli town of Ashkelon. No injuries were reported.

>>Uganda – Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, said yesterday in London that, as part of a final peace agreement with the Lord’s Resistance Army, he would press the ICC to drop charges against LRA leader Joseph Kony. Kony would instead be prosecuted under a traditional system in Uganda whereby those who ask forgiveness and make compensation can escape prison time.

>>Kenya – A power-sharing agreement between Kenya’s current governing party and the opposition, once thought a done deal, seems to be in danger amid dispute about the role of the newly formed post of Prime Minister (to be filled by opposition leader Odinga). On Monday the head of Kenya’s civil service, Francis Muthaura, issued a statement delineating the role as third in the government heirachy, not second as the opposition expected. The opposition says this is a deal-breaker, while the governement has stated that Muthaura’s formulation is correct.

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John McCain has secured the Republican nomination and will be endorsed by the President today. Hillary Clinton earned campaign-saving wins in Ohio and Texas yesterday (as well as Rhode Island). The government of Chad is building a 10-foot-deep moat around Ndjamena to keep the rebels out. Bjork chants “Tibet, Tibet” at a concert in Shanghai.

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>>Columbia, Ecuador, Venezeula – The tension between Ecuardor, Venezuela, and Columbia was ratcheted up yesterday when Columbian President Alvaro Uribe said he would ask the ICC to prosecute Hugo Chavez for his alleged involvement with FARC, based, in part, on intelligence Columbia claims was seized from FARC computers during its raid across the Ecuadorian border (the incursion that sparked this crisis). Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa stated yesterday that, if Columbia did not apologize for the attack and acknowledge the fabrication of claims that Ecuador supported FARC, it would be forced to “defend itself.” President Bush announced his support for Columbia.

>>Kenya – President Kibaki and opposition leader Odinga agreed to a roadmap for constitutional reform yesterday. When parliament meets on Thursday, its first act of business will be to enact the full power-sharing deal and create the post of Prime Minister, which will be filled by Odinga.

>>Gazprom – Yesterday Russia’s new president and Gazprom chairman, Dmitry Medvedev, kept his promise to cut gas supplies
to Ukraine by an additional 25 percent — on top of a previous 25
percent cut — due to the Ukraine’s failure to pay a $600 million bill.
Threats of additional cuts have been made. Europe is bracing for possible cuts to its supply.

>>Yemen – UNHCR has said that the number of people being smuggled into Yemen tripled during the first two months of 2008 in comparison to the same time period in 2007. Most are believed to be from Somalia and to have fled across the Gulf of Aden. Nearly 9,000 arrived during January and February; 113 died; and 200 are missing. The UN shelters those who make it.

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Obama (who received Dodd’s endorsement yesterday) and Clinton had a contentious debate last night in Ohio, sparring mainly on healthcare and trade. There is no longer any debate, however, about the source of “Parmesan.”

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>Tuberculosis – The World Health Organization reports that five percent of all TB cases (nearly 20 percent in some areas of the former Soviet Union and 22 percent in Baku) are resistant to two or more drugs (MDR-TB). Moreover, Tuberculosis that is resistant to nearly all the most-effective drugs (XDR-TB) is now present in 45 countries. MDR-TB is exponentially more expensive to treat than regular TB, as is XDR-TB than MDR-TB. TB is the world’s most lethal infectious disease after AIDS, killing 1.6 million people a year.

>>Kenya – Kofi Annan suspended negotiations in Kenya on Tuesday. Annan did so to “speed up the action,” as he will now bring proposals straight to President Kibaki and opposition leader Odinga instead of their representatives in negotiations. Odinga has called off nationwide opposition protests planned for Thursday.

>>Northern Iraq – Turkey has said that it will provide no timetable for withdrawing its troops from northern Iraq, despite demands from Iraq that it withdraw and from U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates that they keep it short. According to Turkey, 77 militants were killed overnight (bringing the total to 230), as were 24 Turkish soldiers.

>>Cambodia – Kaing Geuk “Duch” Eav, the Khmer Rouge’s former chief interregator who is being charged for crimes against humanity, was taken to a mass grave at Choeung Ek (the “killing fields”) and the infamous S-21 prison this week as part of an effort to gather evidence for a UN-backed war crimes trial in Cambodia that is trying four other senior Khmer Rouge officials. Duch reportedly wept at both locations.

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Obama won in Wisconsin and Hawaii. McCain took Wisconsin and Washington State. Scientists researching the effects of climate change have found giant sea monsters near Antarctica.

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>>Uganda – An agreement has been reached between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army to create a special court to handle war crimes allegations — seen as a major stepping stone toward a full peace deal. The Lord’s Resistance Army has refused to disarm as long as three of its leaders are wanted by the ICC.

>>Pakistan – Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, which won the most seats in Monday’s parliamentary elections, reached out to Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N, which won the second-most seats, in an attempt to form a coalition government. Neither party claimed an outright majority in the election. A ruling coalition that controlled a two-thirds majority could impeach President Musharraf, who has said he has no plans to resign. The leader of the PPP, Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari, has said that no politician align with Musharraf will be allowed to join the coalition.

>>Gorillas – Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda have launched a joint project to protect the less-than 700 gorillas that inhabit the Virunga mountains and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest reserve. The gorillas are a significant source of income for the region, with tourists paying up to $500 for the viewing permit alone.

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In yesterday’s “Potomac” (I think I might prefer “Chesapeake”) primary, Obama and McCain ran the table, Obama by unexpectedly wide margins. Tomorrow I will be blogging live from the UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk.

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>>Russia – Russia issued a trifecta of provocative statements today and was generally all over the news. The nation, which introduced a treaty to ban the deployment of weapons in space at a UN disarmament forum, has said that a failure to do so could spark a new cold war and arms race, while the U.S. is worried about the same thing because of the February 9 Russian bomber mission that flew over the USS Nimitz. Russia has restated its objection to Kosovo’s possible independence, calling it a violation of international law and a threat to security in Europe. And, in addition, it has said that it would point its missiles at the Ukraine if they join NATO and deploy the US missile defense shield despite having worked out a previously contentious gas deal with the Ukraine on the same day. Meanwhile, Russia finalized a nuclear deal with India, and Georgian opposition politician, Badri Patarkatsishvili, who feared an assassination plot against him, was found dead in the UK of a heart attack at age 52. The UK police are suspicious. Also, Medvedev is a fan of Deep Purple.

>>Hezbollah – Hezbollah’s intelligence chief, Imad Mughniyeh, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, an attack the group is blaming on Israel. Mughniyeh, believed to be the mastermind behind a series of hostage situations in Lebanon in the 1980s and at least two bombings in Argentina with heavy casualties, had been in hiding.

>>Tigers – A long-awaited tiger census in India has revealed that the animals’ numbers have declined from 3,642 to 1,411 in the last five years. Tigers are killed for their skins and bones, which are used in traditional medicines. Some reports suggest that there were 40,000 tigers in India at the beginning of the 20th century. Meanwhile, body parts of the nearly extinct Sumatran tiger are being sold in 1 in 10 retail outlets surveyed throughout Sumatra.

>>Venezuela – Venezuela has suspended sales of crude oil to Exxon Mobil, which has sought compensation for the nationalization of one of its projects in Venezuela.

>>Standing Up – Director Stephen Spielberg, best known for his work as a production assistant on Faces (1968), has withdrawn from his role as an artistic director for the opening ceremony of this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing to protest China’s involvement with the government of Sudan. Spielberg had been pressured to do so by UN Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow. And, a Sicilian bishop, Piazza Armerina, is refusing to host the funeral of the head of a notorious mafia family, who died of natural causes at age 81. Armerina, who has said, “Men of the Church must do their bit to fight the mafia,” has received death threats and is under police protection.

Quote of the Day

“I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual. At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.”
– Stephen Spielberg

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Obama won more states, but Clinton claimed more delegates, and the battle continues. McCain solidified his frontrunner status in the Republican primary (even though Huckabee wasn’t too shabby).

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>>Chad – Rebel attacks have ceased in Ndjamena in the wake of France’s declaration that it would get involved if necessary and the dispatch of troops by a Darfur rebel group in order to bolster Chad’s president. France’s Defense Minister, Herve Morin, is in town.

>>Afghanistan – The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that opium cultivation increased by 14 percent in 2007 in southern and southwestern Afghanistan, bolstering the insurgency with up to $100 million. Marijuana production is also on the rise. Outside of rebel strongholds, production decreased.

>>Pakistan – Taliban fighters in Pakistan have declared a ceasefire after months of fighting that has left hundreds dead.

>>Counting the Dead – The BBC reports on the work of the International Rescue Committee, who has taken on the responsibility of counting the dead in difficult to reach places. By their estimates, 45,000 people a month are dying in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Quotes of the Day
  • “Indeed, it is the insurgents, the Taliban, that are deriving an enormous funding for their war by imposing … a 10 percent tax on production”
    – Antonio Maria Costa,
    executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime
  • “People aren’t dying dramatically. They’re dying quietly and anonymously … In the eyes of Western powers, Congo doesn’t represent major political or economic interest.”
    – Richard Brennan of aid agency International Rescue Committee
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John McCain won
a close Florida primary
 last night, solidifying his
status as the frontrunner in the race to be the Republican nominee.
 Rumors suggest that Rudy Guiliani, who
finished a distant third
, will endorse McCain today in
advance of the last Republican debate in the Ronald Reagan Presidential
Library. And Russia, apparently, is beautiful from the hard court to
the barracks.

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>>An internal report on Israeli leadership during the
2006 war in Lebanon is
set to be released today
, both threatening the government
of PM Olmert and putting Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a tight spot.
Barak has pledged to pull the Labor Party out of the government
coalition when the report is release, which would bring down the
government at a time when the right-wing Likud Party is riding high in
public opinion. 

>>The IMF has
lowered
its global forecast for economic growth this year,
but stopped short of predicting a global recession. The forecast for
the U.S. is depressing, but for Africa — not too bad.  The
IMF also smirked at the idea of “de-coupling.”  Meanwhile the
House passed
the President’s stimulus plan, now on its way to the Senate.

>>Be careful what you post on YouTube. The White
House slapped
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad on the wrist today for
sitting next to Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at Davos.

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Oscar nominations were released yesterday. If you haven’t seen No Country for Old Men yet, do yourself a favor. Meanwhile, the Fed made the largest interest rate cut in over 20 years.

In other news:

>>The five UN permanent representatives to the Security Council and Germany reached a deal yesterday on a third round of sanctions, a “moderate tigthening,” against Iran. The resolution will be introduced in the Security Council “in the next few days.” In the meantime, Shrek, Elmo and Spongebob Square Pants hit hard by existing sanctions.

>>Russia continued to flex its muscles at the UK by practising strike tactics and test-launching nuclear-capable missles yesterday in the Bay of Biscay. RAF fighters were scrambled. Meanwhile, a criminal investigation was launched against Russian opposition leader, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, putting his Presidential candidacy in doubt. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s chosen successor launched his campaign.

>>The junta that ousted Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 has stepped down, a day after a newly elected parliament was sworn in. The parliament is dominated by the Shinawatra-friendly People’s Power party, which promises to bring him home from exile.

The End of an Error

Quote of the Day

“We might be deprived of BMWs but we still have the Nissans and the Peugeots of the world. And if you’ve been in an [Iranian] Paykan, then a Peugeot seems great.”
Bijan Khajepour, chairman of the Atieh Group business consultancy, on sanctions against Iran

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