A new U.S. jobs report shows that the country’s economy is gaining, with March adding more jobs than any other month in the last three years. The unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent, CNN.
At today’s Good Friday prayers in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa equated criticism over the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals with “collective violence” suffered by the Jews. The comparison drew outrage from Jewish groups and groups representing abuse victims. While the Pope was in attendance, a Vatican spokesman said Cantalamessa’s views do not represent the Church, BBC News.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will visit Hugo Chavez in Venezuela today. Chavez hopes to expand his influence in the Western world, and billions of dollars of Russian arms sales to Venezuela over the last decade have connected the two countries, NY Times.
An unknown amount of suspects linked to this week’s Metro bombings are now in custody in Russia. Russia’s Federal Security Service says the suspects are “linked to the North Caucasus.” Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the attack yesterday, RIA Novosti.
At a United Nations’ meeting in New York yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon asked for continued help for Haiti. So far, $5.3 billion has been pledged around the world to help rebuild the country, far exceeding the UN’s goal of $3.9bn. According to some reports, only about 37 percent of the money from American private donations has been used, ABC News.
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has accused the United Nations of election fraud in regards to last year’s controversial election. Karzai admitted the election was marred by widespread fraud, but says the blame lies with foreign observers. Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat and the man Karzai believes is responsible, called the accusations “absurd.” Galbraith was the former deputy head of the UN mission and was dismissed from his post last year after he claimed that the UN had not done enough to combat fraud, BBC News.
Hot Topic: Could the Hutaree militia have spawned a Timothy McVeigh?
In honor of the 39 victims of yesterday’s suicide bombings at two metro stations in Moscow, Russians observed a day of mourning today, Voice of America. The attacks were carried out by two female suicide bombers who had lost family in Russia’s war in the troubled North Caucasus region, Reuters. Russia’s state television channels have been criticized for failing to report on yesterday’s bombings until hours after they had occurred, New York Times.
The parliament of Serbia narrowly passed a resolution apologizing for the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995 during the Bosnian War. The statement stopped short of calling the action genocide, BBC News.
In a major accomplishment for the CERN supercollider, scientists recreated events that occurred shorting after the big bang that created the universe, Financial Times.
Cities in over 125 countries are officially taking part in the environment-friendly Earth Hour, which encourages everyone to turn off their lights for one hour on Saturday at 8:30 pm local time. Iconic landmarks and sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, the Las Vegas Strip, and the Egyptian pyramids, among others, have agreed to turn off their lights for the initiative. One exception lies in the city of Bangkok, where officials have decided not to partake due to fear of violence from anti-government protesters, AFP.
Officials say they have found the decapitated head and body of Heriberto Cerda, the police chief of Agualeguas, Mexico. His brother, Jesus Cerda, was found dead in a truck nearby, but police have not reported his cause of death. The town’s deputy police chief and Cerda’s bodyguard were also murdered by gunmen hours before the discovery of the bodies belonging to the Cerda brothers. The crimes are believed to be related to drug and gang violence, which has killed 18,000 people in the country since 2006, AP.
The bloc of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has been declared the winner of the Iraqi parliamentary elections that took place two weeks ago, but it remains to be seen if Allawi will become the next prime minister. He has vowed to help bring peace to the Arab and Muslim world by accepting his former political rivals into the new government and promoting governmental secularism, AP.
The sinking of a South Korean naval ship may have been due to a mine explosion, new reports suggest. Of the 104 sailors onboard the ship, 58 have been rescued thus far, and officials say there is little reason to suspect North Korea was involved, Xinhau.
DNA tests confirm the existence of an ancient human ancestor that lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. The DNA came from a fragment of a finger bone found in a Siberian cave in 2008 among ornaments. The bone is said to belong to “X-Woman,” and researches believe Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and the species of X-woman may have all interacted in southern Siberia, BBC News.
New reports say Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI before he was awarded the papacy, did not defrock a priest accused of sexual molesting 200 deaf boys despite numerous warnings. Documents suggest warnings were ignored because the Church was more concerned with protecting itself from further scandal. American Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy is the accused, who worked at a school for deaf children from 1950 to 1974, NY Times.
Five Iraqi soldiers have been shot and killed by gunmen at a security checkpoint in Baghdad. Security officials arrested 17 people after closing off the area after the attack, BBC News.
The U.S. and Russia have reached a nuclear arms deal, cited as the most extensive deal between the two countries in two decades. Official details of the treaty have not been revealed, but it is known that both sides have vowed to reduce their stores of long-range mission nuclear weapons, Washington Post.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed an historic health care reform bill last night. The bill must also be approved by the U.S. Senate, where it is expected to pass, before it can be signed into law by President Barack Obama, BBC News. Political implications of the health care reform bill, Reuters. Factbox on immediate and long terms changes that will be implemented if the bill is passed through reconciliation and signed by President Obama, Reuters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to address the controversy over the building of new settlements in Jerusalem. Netanyahu will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. this week, Christian Science Monitor.
After a small eruption over the weekend, Iceland is preparing for larger volcanic eruptions, Times Online.
Democrats appear to have pushed through a final version of the health care reform bill. Final vote on the bill is expected tonight. The bill will impose new limits on health insurance companies, including ending the practice of denying coverage based on pre-exisiting conditions. It will also require individuals to buy health insurance or face a penalty. Details of the final bill, Reuters. Passage of the bill was boosted by concessions by President Obama and Democrats that ensure health care reform will exclude federal payments for abortions. Text of the President’s statement, CNN. Timeline of the past 100 years of American health care reform, New York Times.
Two weeks after elections in Iraq, the votes are still being counted. Iyad Allawi’s secular coalition narrowly leads over current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s mainly Shi’ite coalition. Maliki has called for a recount but Iraq’s electoral commission ruled that a recount is not necessary. About 95 percent of the votes have been counted, Reuters.
Two Palestinians were shot by Israeli military in the West Bank today. The military says the men had attempted to stab a soldier, Al Jazeera.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has called for Israeli to end its blockade of the West Bank, BBC News.
An Israeli airstrike has injured 11 people in the Gaza strip. Another strike 24-hours earlier hit two smuggling tunnels and a weapons manufacturing site. The strike occurred amid clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Fighting erupted after Israel announced plans to build 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem, which has prompted outrage from the U.S., Al Jazeera.
Massive protests continue in Thailand. The opposition “red shirts,” which aim to oust the current government, have planned marches around Bangkok for tomorrow and have succeeded in their attempts to hold non-violent rallies. 150,000 people participated in last Sunday’s march, and analysts believe the movement is winning many sympathizers, Reuters.
A reported mine collapse that is believed to have killed almost 200 people is being denied by the country’s government. Minister of Mineral Resources Alpha Kanu says he visited the site and no collapse occurred, BBC News.
Hot Topic: Economist Paul Krugman on healthcare reform.