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 World Health Organization is issuing new warnings on the H1N1 flu virus. WHO says that up 2 billion people could become infected worldwide before the virus has run its course and is worried that the virus could mutate and become more deadly if enough people are not vaccinated before winter. H1N1 vaccines should be available in the Northern Hemisphere by early autumn. Drug companies are hoping shots will be available for the Southern Hemisphere, where the virus has been more pronounced, especially in countries like Australia, sooner. About 800 people have died from the flu, Reuters.
China is relaxing its “one-child” policy in some cities in hopes of balancing its aging population. Couples in Shanghai who meet a set of criteria, including both being only children themselves, have been notified that they are allowed to have a second child, Xinhua.
The defense in the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who has been under house arrest in Myanmar for much of the past 20 years, has concluded their arguments. The prosecution will present their final statement next week, CNN.
The semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq will hold presidential and legislative elections on Saturday. The current government, including Kurdistan’s president Massud Barzani, is expected to remain in power. Kurdistan has been independent since 1991 and has its own flag and national anthem, Al Jazeera.
South Korea’s president Lee Myung-bak has announced an overhaul of the country’s college admission procedures. The plan is to eliminate admissions tests and use only interviews to assess the applicant’s “creative potential,” Yonhap.
The World Health Organization has declared a global flu pandemic based on the growing spread of the swine flu, or H1N1, in many regions of the world and now 74 countries. Health experts had developed the pandemic protocols based on much deadlier flu scenarios such as the bird flu, or H5N1. The swine flu is not nearly as deadly but officials are fearful that the virus could mutate, BBC News. Three more people have died from H1N1 in New York City, bringing the total to 15 there, Fox44 News. Hong Kong has ordered all its daycares and primary schools shut in an effort to keep the virus from spreading, Voice of America.
Five American contractors being held in the death of James Kitterman, owner of a Houston, Texas based contracting company, were ordered released by an Iraqi judge due to insufficient evidence. Two will remain in custody in Iraq on drug charges, Associated Press.
Palau and Bermuda will take some of the 17 Chinese nationals who are still being held at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay despite court orders from as far back as 2003 clearing the individuals to be released, AFP. The Uighurs are an ethnic group of mostly Turkish descendants in central Asia. Many live in China and international reports indicate that China discriminates against the group. 22 Uighurs were held at Guantanamo Bay. The men were picked up at a camp in Afghanistan but have never been linked to terrorism or expressed hatred against the United States. Some of the Uighurs have been released to Albania though China has requested they be sent home to face charges there. Experts suspect that they will be executed if returned to China.
Demonstrators march in support of Iran’s presidential candidates. Women account for about 65% of the voting population in Iran and 70% of the population is less than 30 years old. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s main opponents are Mirhossein Mousavi, a reform candidate and Mehdi Karoubi who is the major liberal candidate. Mousavi’s support has been rising in recent days with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to show their support. However, Karoubi could spilt the liberal-reform vote. Some analysts predict the election will be forced into a run-off between President Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, Reuters.
Five U.S. Congressmen were arrested in D.C. today for civil disobedience at a protest against the genocide in Darfur. Those arrested were Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). They were all released a few hours after the arrest and will have to pay a $100 fine. Congressman Lewis is a noted civil rights activist who spoke at the March on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 and is credited with helping end segregation, AJC.
The World Heath Organization has raised the pandemic alert level to a level 4, meaning the swine flu “is capable of significant human-to-human transmission.” Reports say 149 people have died from the strain in Mexico (the only country reporting deaths) and there are 81 confirmed cases worldwide, although all the cases in other countries appear to be mild. However, according to an official WHO report, only around 20 deaths in Mexico can be attributed to the virus, CNN.
After a relatively quiet month in Madagascar, soldiers have stormed the country’s constitutional court and arrested the head of security in the capital city of Antananarivo. Reports say the event was an attempt to scare those who ousted former President Marc Ravalomanana from power last month, BBC News.
FBI reports say Professor George Zinkhan, who murdered three people in Athens, GA on Saturday, bought a plane ticket to Amsterdam for May 2nd, but before he commited the crime. Zinkhan has a house in the city and police are working with authorites in the European country. Classes resumed as normal on the UGA campus, although security has been heightened, despite UGA’s police chief saying he believes Zinkhan is not still in the city, CNN.
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At least 60 killed in suicide bombing at a northern Baghdad Shi’ite shrine. Two Sunni suicide bombers struck outside of the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in the Shia neighborhood of Kadhimiya. With yesterday’s double suicide bombings, over 130 people have been killed in bombing in Iraq in the past 24 hours. It is not yet known if yesterday’s arrest of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, will increase or decrease the frequency of bombings, Telegraph.
Israeli bulldozers raze Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Israel says the home were built illegally, but Palestinians say it is almost impossible to get permits to build. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in March that the Israeli practice of bulldozing homes is “unhelpful,” AFP via Yahoo News.
Canadian soldier found dead in her quarters at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. Enemy action has been ruled out, CBC News.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of several flu events in north America. Seven cases of swine flu have been found in Texas and California while over 800 cases of an unknown serious flu/respiratory illness have been found in Mexico. The WHO is considering issuing a travel warning for Mexico. Schools for millions of Mexico children have been closed. Officials are particularly concerned because flu season in Mexico usually ends in late February, Reuters.
Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen accused of taking part in an attack in Afghanistan that lead to the death of a U.S. soldier. Khadr has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 when he was picked up at the age of 15. A Canadian federal court ruled that Khadr has been denied his due process rights and that he should be treated as a child soldier and that action by the federal government to get Khadr out of Guantanamo should be immediate because the government has known Khadr is being tortured since 2003. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, has said he intends to appeal the decision. U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the prison facility closed by January 2010 by which time all prisoners must be either tried or returned to their home countries or to a country that will accept them, The Star.