IRAQ: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets with Iraqi leaders today in Baghdad. Gates is expected to urge top Iraqi officials to work harder to reconcile differences between the Shi'ite and Sunni communities, and to pass legislation on sharing oil revenues among Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds. Gates said Thursday he realizes the legislation will be difficult to pass. The U.S. defense secretary arrived in Iraq Thursday on an unannounced visit after stops elsewhere in the region.
US - UNIVERSITY SHOOTINGS: The governor of the (eastern) U.S. state of Virginia has formed an independent panel to investigate Monday's deadly shooting rampage on the campus of Virginia Tech. Governor Tim Kaine announced the panel's creation Thursday. He said the panel will probe all aspects of the shootings, including the response time of police and emergency medical responses to the tragedy. It will also look at whether school officials and authorities could have done more to help the gunman, Cho Seung-hui, once they became aware of his mental health problems.
KOREA - TALKS: North and South Korean officials held more talks today on food aid and other joint-projects, despite a tense opening session Thursday. South Korean pool reports say North Korea's chief envoy at the talks in Pyongyang stormed out of the opening session to protest the South Korean delegation's call for the North to honor its nuclear disarmament pledge. The reports also said the North's delegation delayed the talks for hours after demanding to see a text of the South's keynote speech, which Seoul refused.
NOKOR - US - RIGHTS: The. U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights says the reclusive country will have to improve its human rights record before the United States will normalize relations with the country. Speaking in Washington Thursday, Jay Lefkowitz said if North Korea ever wants to be seen as legitimate, it will have to make progress on human rights. He also called on Beijing to stop treating North Koreans refugees as economic migrants subject to repatriation.
WOLFOWITZ - WORLD BANK: The board of executive directors of the World Bank says there are still "a number of issues" involving the role President Paul Wolfowitz played in securing a promotion for his girlfriend. The board issued a statement today saying it had agreed on a process to deal with the controversy "urgently, effectively and in an orderly manner." The 24-member board met late Thursday to discuss recent revelations that Wolfowitz was instrumental in securing a sizable pay raise and a new job for Shaha Riza when he took over the bank in 2005.
FRANCE - ELECTION: A new poll in France indicates conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy would beat Socialist hopeful Segolene Royal in a second round presidential runoff. Results of the public opinion survey predicts front-runners Sarkozy and Royal will be the top two candidates in Sunday's first round of presidential balloting, and that Sarkozy will defeat Royal with 53 percent of the vote in a May sixth runoff.
WHO - TRAFFIC CRASHES: Road crashes kill nearly one-point-two million people each year around the world, and the World Health Organization says without effective action, the death toll will rise significantly. Millions more people are injured, many of them disabled for life. In a message to journalists Thursday, WHO officials say residents of poor and middle-income nations, particularly males under 25 years of age, are at the highest risk.
BOLLYWOOD MARRIAGE: Two Bollywood film stars are to wed today in what many are calling "India's wedding of the year." Actress Aishwarya Rai and actor Abhishek Bachchan are due to exchange marriage vows in a private Hindu ceremony in the groom's home in Mumbai. Security is tight around the venue, where India's celebrity elite will attend the nuptials. The 30-year-old Bachchan is the son of screen legend Amitabh Bachchan. Rai is a former Miss World. The 33-year-old star has acted in more than 40 films.
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