KOREAS: North Korea and South Korea held a secret meeting last week in Singapore to discuss a possible summit between the two nations, according to media reports.
JAPAN: Japan’s new government made a move on Friday to defuse the growing tension with the U.S. over the future of a U.S. base in the country. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, under intense pressure from top U.S. military officials in Tokyo, said that moving the base — now located in the populated city of Futenma — off of the tiny island of Okinawa “is not an option.”
NIGERIA: Nigeria has joined forces with Microsoft to crackdown on e-mail scamsters. Eight hundred fraudulent email addresses and 18 cyber-crime organizations have already been shut down, according to Nigeria’s anti-corruption body.
KENYA: A new insurance scheme that would pay farmers during times of drought is set to launch in the northern area of Kenya. The pilot program, which will kickoff in the spring of 2010, will use satellite imaging to help track when a drought is imminent and compensate farmers for their livestock losses. Kenya is currently suffering through one of its worst droughts in years.
SOMALIA: The Somali militant group Al-Shabaab has threatened to attack the capitals of Uganda and Burundi following heavy violence on Thursday. Al-Shabaab exchanged fire with African Union peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda in fighting that left over 20 people dead.
UK: The latest economic reports show that Britain remains in a recession after many of its European neighbors have climbed out of it. This data makes the current recession the longest on record for the U.K.
ITALY: More than 100,000 women have signed a petition protesting Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s remark about a female opposition politician’s looks and intelligence.
FRANCE: After accusations of nepotism, President Sarkozy’s son Jean Sarkozy pulled out of the running to lead a quasi-governmental organization that operates an influential business district on Thursday. He was then named a member of the group’s board on Friday.
RUSSIA AND CIS:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has endorsed a draft nuclear deal to ship Iran’s uranium abroad for enrichment. The U.S. and France have also expressed approval of the draft.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic and NATO have both endorsed President Obama’s revamped plans for a missile defense system in Europe. Vice-President Joe Biden met with Czech Premier Jan Fischer today to discuss the Czech Republic’s role.
Will the Red Crystal become the Red Cross’s new symbol? Ukraine’s parliament adopted the symbol today. The Red Crystal was created as a neutral symbol in contrast to the Red Cross or Red Crescent, which some countries say carry religious overtones.
This Reuters article reports on a “miracle” baby who is bringing hope to residents of Russia’s impoverished, violence-plagued North Caucasus. The baby, on whose body verses of the Koran reportedly appear, has attracted thousands of pilgrims from across the region.
More than 70 tons of Afghan heroin was sold in Russia in 2008, three times the amount sold to Canada and the U.S. combined–this according to a new UN report that puts Russia, Europe and Iran as top consumers of the world’s opium. Watch a Russia Today video on the subject.
Russians will pay tribute to the “Soviet Frank Sinatra” this weekend, marking the first anniversary of the death of singer Muslim Magomayev. Magomayev was a favorite of the elite during the years of Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Andropov. His repertoire ranged from opera to Hello Dolly. Watch a video tribute to him.
URUGUAY: The last Uruguayan dictator, Gregorio Alvarez, who ruled the Latin American nation from 1973 until 1985, received a sentence of 25 years in jail for 37 murders of dissidents during his rule.
LEBANON: Haaretz newspaper writes that the suburb of Dahiyah, a Hizbollah stronghold heavily damaged during Israeli aerial strikes during the Gaza war, is booming due to a Hizbollah reconstruction program.
SAUDI ARABIA: After a series of embarrassing high-profile incidents involving traveling Saudi citizens, the Saudi online new site Arab News reports the Saudi foreign ministry has issued guidelines on how Saudis should behave when abroad.
ISRAEL: Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has telephoned the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the Goldstone Commission report on the recent Gaza war. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post has an interview with former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, in which he discusses the serious threats to Israeli-Turkish relations.
PAKISTAN: PakTribune is reporting on a suicide car bomb explosion in Peshawar, the main city in Pakistan’s northwest. At least seven people were killed and many injured. Also from Pakistan, Dawn TV reports that the Red Cross is decrying the lack of access for relief workers in the impoverished South Waziristan district where a Pakistani military assault against the Pakistani Taliban is in its sixth day.