Diplomats from India and Pakistan will meet on February 25 for the first time since the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Pakistan has denied involvement, but India broke off relations insisting that groups based in Pakistan were behind the devastating attacks that killed 173 people. One of the major issues to be addressed is the Kashmir region, a mountainous area that is divided by India and Pakistan. Muslims in the Indian part of Kashmir have been fighting to join Pakistan which is a majority Muslim state, Al Jazeera.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 57 million Americans contracted the H1N1 flu virus this flu season. 11,700 Americans died as a result of the flu, Wall Street Journal.
A mumps outbreak has infected 2,000 people, mostly schoolchildren, in New York and New Jersey, CNN.
The 2010 Winter Olympics begin tonight in Vancouver, Canada. The opening ceremony begins at 6pm Pacific Time, Official website. The final torch relay had to be diverted in Vancouver today due to protests, ABC News. Winter Olympics guide, Washington Post.
Thousands of Yemeni troops are battling Al Qaeda strongholds in Yemen, Al Jazeera. A number of recent incidents, including the recent Christmas Day attempted bombing in Detroit by a man who said he was trained in Yemen, have increased concern about the presence of Al Qaeda in Yemen. Yemen was the site of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, PBS Newshour. The U.S. embassy in Yemen has reopened, Los Angeles Times. Profile of Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, New York Times.
Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai has taken over the title of world’s tallest building. The tower was recently renamed after Abu Dhabi’s ruler, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, gave Dubai $25 billion when Dubai announced that it would not have enough cash to repay debts on construction of the tower. Dubai is one of the 7 emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates. Its economy, which is largely based on real estate and tourism, suffered in the recent economic downturn, Voice of America.
The World Health Organization warns that the threat from the H1N1 virus is not over and is urging people to continue to get the vaccine. WHO’s director-general, who said she had been busy with travel commitments, was finally vaccinated this week, Reuters.
The U.N.’s World Food Programme has had to suspended distribution of aid in Somalia due to security concerns, Al Jazeera. Rebel groups, including the militant al-Shabab group, now control most of Somalia.
The Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims make at least once in their lifetimes, began today amid heavy rains, BBC News. Pilgrims from Egypt were required to receive the H1N1 swine flu vaccine before beginning the journey, Voice of America. Complete coverage from CNN.
The Bariyapur festival, a celebration of Gadhimai, a Hindu goddess of power that is held every 5 years, has begun in Nepal. Over 200,000 animal sacrifices will be conducted during the festival. The festival has grown in recent years in Nepal because many of its neighboring countries have banned animal sacrifice, Associated Press.
The death toll from the pre-election massacre in the Philippines has risen to 57. A group was going to register file election paperwork for the office of governor of Maguindanao for Ismael “Toto” Mangudadatu. Mangudadatu’s wife and sisters were among the group as well at least 12 journalists. Mangudadatu had been warned not to file the papers himself, CNN.
U.S. President Barack Obama will give a speech on Tuesday, December 1 about U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. Obama is expected to announce that he will send more American troops to Afghanistan, Reuters.
Militants connected to the Taliban and al Qaeda have targeted two elder leaders in northwestern Pakistan who spoke out against the Taliban, BBC News.
The number of deaths from the H1N1 in the U.S. is 4 times higher than the Centers for Disease Control had previously predicted. 4,000 people in the United States have died since April, Voice of America.
Thousands mourned Robert Enke, the German football goalie who committed suicide earlier this week. Enke was expected to be Germany’s goalie in the 2010 World Cup. Enke had been stricken by grief after the death of his young daughter, CNN.
The Israeli Navy said today that it has seized an Iranian container ship carrying weapons. The large array, which included 600 tons of rockets, guns and other weapons, was expected to be shipped to the militia of the Islamist Hezbollah movement, Washington Post.
Officials have confirmed that a cat in Iowa has contracted the H1N1 virus, making it the first known case of swine flu in a feline. The cat has recovered, but two ferrets in Nebraska and Oregon have died from the virus. Many other kinds of influenza strains have seen human to cat transmission, and officials say it would be wise to take precautions around pets if infected with H1N1, AP.
Almost two dozens Americans have been sentenced to five years in jail by an Italian court on charges of seizing a suspected terrorist in Italy. The man, Abu Omar, says he was nabbed off the streets in Milan in 2003 and then sent to Egypt where he was tortured. Most of the convicted are suspected by Italy of being CIA agents. None of the convicted were arrested or stood trial, making them essentially international fugitives and unable to ever return to the country, CNN.
The trial of Amanda Knox, the American woman accused of murdering her British roommate as they studied abroad in Italy, is nearing its end. Knox has maintained her innocence, and what once looked like a slam dunk conviction is now not so clear. The prosecution’s biggest piece of evidence against Knox was a knife found with her DNA on it, but supporters say the scene was too distorted by police for a conviction. The jury will begin deliberations on December 4, CNN.
The CDC reports that over half of those hospitalized with the H1N1 virus in the U.S. are under the age of 25. Only seven percent are over the age of 65, and 12 percent of deaths from the virus are elderly. This is a huge difference from the seasonal flu, which finds that 90 percent killed and 60 percent hospitalized are over the age of 65, Reuters.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to a runoff election after a UN report found that there was no way for Karzai to have legally won the August presidential election. At the press conference, Karzai was joined by U.S. Senator John Kerry, who is credited with pressuring Karzai to agree to a runoff. The vote will occur on Nov. 7th, Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill today allowing Guantanamo Bay detainees to be tried on U.S. soil. The bill states that the government must be provided with an assessment of security risks before an inmate can be brought to the the U.S. The passing is seen as a positive step in helping close the prison, BBC News.
Hot Topic: Leader of China’s Uighur Minority Builds a Stage Across the Globe.
Commandos raided the Pakistani military headquarters where three dozen hostages had been held by two militants since yesterday. Three hostages died in the mission as well as two special forces soldiers, Al Jazeera.
Mullah Muhammad Omar is leading an increasingly successful Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, New York Times.
The CDC says the H1N1 virus, aka swine flu, is especially dangerous for young children. 76 children have died in the U.S. with 19 of those deaths occurring just last week. Parents are urged to be especially cautious if a fever and cough return after a sick child appears to get better as this can mean the child has suffered a second infection, NPR.
Gay rights advocates marched on Washington today to urge U.S. President Barack Obama to keep his promise to extend civil rights to homosexuals. In a speech last night at a dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, Obama said that he would push to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the U.S. military, Associated Press.
In a second referendum vote, Ireland has voted in favor of the Lisbon Treaty, which aims to reform the workings of the European Union. A first referendum was held in June 2008 and only 10 out of 43 parliamentary constituencies were in favor of the treaty. In contrast, this time 41 constituencies voted in favor. Ireland was the only EU nation to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Guardian UK. The Telegraph has posted a Q&A of the treaty here.
A Hamas official is denying reports that the Palestine National Authority will control the Gaza Strip after an agreement between Hamas and Fatah. A reconciliation deal is expected to be signed later this month in Cairo and some reports say Palestine will hold official elections next year, Xinhau.
Three foreign aid workers held hostage for three months have been released in Somalia. The workers, who work for Action Against Hunger, were kidnapped in Kenya by about 10 Somali gunmen. It is not known if a ransom was paid for their release, but they are all reported to be in good health and safe, BBC News.
Some parts of the U.S. will begin to receive H1N1 vaccines early next week. 600,000 doses of the nasal spray FluMist will be spread across 21 states and more will be sent out later in the week, USA Today.
Hot Topic: From Inside Military, Strong Rebuke Of Ban On Gays.