The World

10 ESSENTIAL STORIES

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1 | Iraq

An Uncertain Future

Five months have passed since Iraqis voted in general elections, but a coalition government has yet to form, plunging the country into a profound impasse. The political wrangling has worsened unemployment and poverty within Iraq and led to an increase in violence. Civilian deaths rose sharply in July, and an Aug. 17 suicide-bomb attack killed at least 57 Iraqi-army recruits as they waited outside a recruitment center. Internationally, the uncertainty has exacerbated concerns about what will happen after the U.S. draws down its troops to 50,000 at the end of the month. Power-sharing talks between Sunni-backed Iyad Allawi, whose party won the most parliamentary seats, though by a slim margin, and Shi'ite incumbent Nouri al-Maliki fell apart on Aug. 16, further dashing hopes of reconciliation.

2 | Iran

Plans for New Nuclear Sites

In defiance of efforts by the international community to stem Iran's nuclear advancement, Iran's head of atomic energy, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Aug. 16 the nation has identified sites where it will begin building 10 new uranium-enrichment plants early next year. The announcement came as the country gears up for the Aug. 21 opening of its first nuclear power plant--a 1,000-MW facility built by Russia in the southern province of Bushehr. Iran says it needs 20 such large-scale plants to meet domestic energy demands over the next 15 years.

3 | California

Prop 8 Fight Continues

After a San Francisco judge struck down the gay-marriage ban known as Proposition 8 earlier this month, the case was immediately appealed. On Aug. 16, two days before gay marriages were due to become legal in the state, the Ninth Circuit Court issued a stay on such ceremonies until it decides the case in December. Widely expected to make its way to the Supreme Court, the case must first navigate several legal hurdles.

4 | China

The New No. 2

In what was simply a matter of time, China became the world's second largest economy when its gross domestic product surpassed Japan's in the second quarter of 2010. For several years, Japan has struggled to revive its economy and decrease its debt amid frequent turnover in its government. While the U.S. remains the world's largest economy--with a GDP of about $14 trillion--some economists expect that China will overtake it in about 20 years. China's growth rate for 2011 is projected at 9.6%, while the U.S. GDP is expected to increase only 2.4%.

How the three GDPs have fared recently

[The following text appears within 2 charts. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual charts.]

CURRENT, IN TRILLIONS

2009 GROWTH RATE

SOURCES: BLOOMBERG; IMF

5 | Tokyo

Shunning a War Shrine

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