1 | Baghdad
An Uncertain Election
Six weeks after Iraqis cast their votes in the March 7 parliamentary election, a final outcome remains uncertain. Though former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and his Iraqiya coalition's tally of 91 seats narrowly beat out incumbent PM Nouri al-Maliki's count of 89, both fall far short of the 163 needed to form a government. Further complicating matters, al-Maliki's State of Law alliance has ordered a manual recount of hundreds of thousands of votes in Baghdad that it claims have been affected by fraud.
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
Breakdown of postelection Iraqi parliamentary seats
STATE OF LAW
IRAQI NATIONAL ALLIANCE
SOURCE: INDEPENDENT HIGH ELECTORAL COMMISSION
2 | Indonesia
Blasphemy Law Upheld
In a surprising ruling, Indonesia's constitutional court held that a 1965 blasphemy law does not violate the nation's guarantee of religious freedom and that it is actually essential to preserving religious harmony. Many criticized the ruling as a blow to religious freedom in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. The statute makes it illegal to "distort" the central teachings of the country's six officially recognized religions (Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism). Critics charge that the law is vaguely written and, as such, is often used as a weapon against adherents of minority religions.
3 | Islamabad
Report on Bhutto's Death
A U.N. panel has concluded that the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was preventable. The panel's report blamed the government, local police and intelligence agencies for failing to properly investigate threats against Bhutto, who was killed while campaigning for her third nonconsecutive term. After the report's release, eight senior officials were removed from their posts.
4 | Washington
Iran Policy Ineffective
According to a classified memo written in January by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and obtained by the New York Times, the U.S. does not have an effective policy for dealing with Iran's continuing attempts to gain nuclear capabilities. Some analysts believe Iran might acquire all the major components of a nuclear weapon, including fuel and detonators, but refrain from actually assembling it so that it can remain within the parameters of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The memo reportedly highlights concerns that the U.S. hasn't outlined a concrete strategy in the event that diplomacy fails.
5 | Washington
Animal-Cruelty Law Scrapped