The World

10 ESSENTIAL STORIES

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Correction Appended: August 5, 2010

1 | Afghanistan

Leaders Gather in Kabul

During the first major conference of foreign governments in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban, attendees endorsed President Hamid Karzai's goal for Afghan forces to take hold of the country's security in 2014. The gathering was undercut, however, by the grim situation on the ground. As violence continues to rise--June was the nearly nine-year war's deadliest month for coalition forces--questions remain over whether local forces will be prepared to assume control, especially given plans to start drawing down U.S. and British troops in 2011.

2 | Australia

A Lady in Waiting

In June, Julia Gillard became Australia's first female Prime Minister after ousting the previous PM--the unpopular Kevin Rudd--in an internal party putsch. Now, having called for an Aug. 21 general election, she hopes to win over the rest of the country. Her ruling Labour Party is ahead in polls by only a thin margin, and Gillard will have to show even more political acumen to preserve her job.

3 | Washington

Free, but Not Forgiven

Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi cast a long shadow over the U.S. visit of British PM David Cameron, who condemned Scotland's August 2009 release of the Libyan--freed because he was thought to have only three months to live. Yet al-Megrahi is still alive, a fact that has revived suspicions that oil interests, including those of BP, led to a backroom Anglo-Libyan deal.

A Bomber's Tale

Dec. 1988

Pan Am Flight 103 explodes en route to New York, killing all 259 people on board and 11 in the Scottish town of Lockerbie

Jan. 2001

After years of investigation and political wrangling, a court sentences extradited Libyan al-Megrahi to life in prison

July 2009

Al-Megrahi is released by Scottish authorities, who cite the Libyan's terminal illness. Critics see a BP-inspired plot

4 | Mexico

A New Tactic, a New Low

In the first use of a car bomb by a Mexican gang, La Linea--enforcers for the Juárez drug cartel--detonated a device in the volatile city on July 15, killing four, including a federal police officer. La Linea claimed that the strike was payback for the arrest of one of its commanders. Three days later, another suspected gang murdered 17 people in the northern city of Torreón.

5 | Syria

Face Veil Banned in Universities

In hopes of preserving the nation's secular identity, On July 18, Syria's Education Ministry banned the niqab--a full-face Islamic veil--in both public and private universities. The move in the predominantly Muslim country comes on the heels of similar attempts in a handful of European nations. The ban will not affect the hijab, the commonly worn headscarf that does not cover the face.

6 | Puerto Rico

Drug Kingpin Nabbed

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