IRAQ: Iraqi authorities say two separate bomb blasts have killed at least 53 people and wounded scores of others. Authorities say a car bomb today killed at least 40 people and wounded more than 70 in Baquba, north of Baghdad. Police say they expect the death toll to rise. Police in Ramadi, west of the capital, say a suicide bomber blew himself up at a restaurant, killing at least 13 people and wounding several others. On Monday, attacks in other parts of Iraq killed at least 22 people. In another development Monday, radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demanded the Iraqi government reinstate all security forces fired for abandoning their duty in recent fighting.
US - FOOD AID: President Bush has ordered a 200-million dollar increase in U.S. emergency food aid for needy countries worldwide. The White House issued a statement Monday saying the additional aid will address the impact of rising food prices. Rising commodity prices have been blamed for food shortages and social unrest. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that the rapidly escalating crisis of food availability around the world has reached emergency proportions. He urged both immediate and long-term measures to tackle the global food crisis.
SOKOR - US: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has left for the United States on his first trip abroad since taking office in February. Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said Monday that Mr. Lee's trip is aimed at reconsolidating the alliance between the two countries. Mr. Lee will arrive today in New York, where he will meet with a group of Korean-Americans. The conservative Korean president is scheduled to spend the week meeting with U.S. business and political leaders. He will hold talks with President Bush at Camp David Friday and Saturday. Mr. Lee will be the first South Korean leader to visit the U.S. presidential retreat (outside Washington, in the state of Maryland countryside).
PHILIPPINES - ECON: The Philippines central bank says money sent home by millions of Filipinos working overseas rose nearly 16 percent from a year ago in February. The bank said in a statement today that remittances from Filipino expatriates totaled two-point-five billion dollars for the first two months of this year. Figures released by the bank showed worker deployments in the first two months rose 14-point six percent from a year earlier. The banks said the proportion of more skilled people leaving the country to take higher-paying jobs also contributed to the rise in remittances.
ITALY ELECTION: Conservative billionaire Silvio Berlusconi will become Italy's prime minister for a third time. The Italian Interior Ministry says Mr. Berlusconi's center-right coalition will have at least 168 seats in the Senate - ten more than needed for an absolute majority. The ministry says that in the lower house, the center-right will have 340 seats, slightly more than half the total. Mr. Berlusconi told Italian television he feels a great responsibility and predicts the next few years will be difficult as Italy struggles with a slow economy.
ZIMBABWE: Businesses were opening as usual in Zimbabwe today despite the opposition political party's call for a strike to pressure officials to release the results of last month's presidential elections. The Movement for Democratic Change called for the general strike after a High Court judge (Tendai Uchena) rejected its petition to make the electoral commission release the tally immediately. The MDC encouraged people to stay home rather than protest in the streets. Riot police were on patrol in the capital, Harare, to prevent violence.
US - POPE: Pope Benedict is flying to Washington today for his first visit to the United States since he was elected head of the Roman Catholic Church. President Bush and his wife, Laura, will greet the pontiff when his specially chartered Alitalia jetliner lands at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington (expected at 2000 UTC). An official welcoming ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday at the White House. During the pontiff's six-day U.S. visit, he is scheduled to celebrate open-air Masses in Washington and New York.
US AIRLINE MERGER: Two U.S. airlines, Delta and Northwest, have announced a plan to merge their companies, a move which would create the world's largest airline. The boards of the two companies announced Monday the combined airline would operate under Delta's name, and Delta's chief executive officer would be in charge. Stockholders of the two companies and U.S. anti-trust regulators will have to approve the deal. In addition to their domestic flights, each airline flies a network of international routes. Delta has trans-Atlantic routes to Europe and other operations in Latin America.
CUBA - CELL PHONES: Hundreds of people lined up at phone centers in Cuba Monday to buy cellular phone service -- which until recently had been reserved for top government officials and foreigners. Cuban President Raul Castro lifted the ban on mobile phone service in March as part of an effort to ease restrictions in the communist-led Caribbean country. The cost, however, is expected to be too expensive for the average Cuban. Cuba's state-run telecommunications company has said fees from the new mobile service will be used to improve the country's telecommunications infrastructure.
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