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Associated Press/Photo by Jorge Saenz

The Buzz

Need-to-know news

Issue: "O Jerusalem," April 10, 2010

And then the rains came

Though Haiti's rainy season usually begins in April, some 45,000 earthquake victims in a makeshift tent city near Port-au-Prince got an early glimpse of the misery that heavy spring rains portend: A downpour in late March swept terrified tent-dwellers into eddies of water and deluged pitiful living quarters with gushing, muddy water. Latrines overflowed, and residents used sticks and bare hands to dig drainage ditches around their tents.

Even without the rains, conditions in tent cities are still deplorable, nearly four months after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti: Aid workers in many overcrowded camps report overflowing latrines, clogged sewage lines, mosquito-infested quarters, mountains of trash, and unrelenting stench.

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The Haitian government pledged to construct resettlement sites for nearly 200,000 people living in the most flood-prone camps before rainy season begins. With little time left, officials say they are still negotiating with landowners, and they haven't opened any new sites. Aid groups say they can't intervene without government approval for new camp sites, a bleak sign for long-term recovery efforts. "It's been frustrating to us because we need to have those sites in order to build something better," said UN humanitarian chief John Holmes. "We're running out of time, honestly."

Iraq post-election

Whichever Shiite political coalition comes out on top in the final tally, one thing in Iraq seems clear: The March 7 elections signaled a diminished role for Iraq's Kurdish political leaders, who have been the United States' staunchest allies in the seven-year war.

The Kurdistan Alliance is expected to hold 42 seats in the new parliament, down from 50 it previously held in the 325-seat assembly. Meanwhile, current Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki reached out to the Iran-backed Iraqi National Alliance that includes cleric Muqtada al-Sadr-one of the staunchest foes of U.S. intervention. Whether he or former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi prevails, a coalition with Sadrists-and Kurds-may be necessary. Maliki also met for the first time since the election with current President Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader, on March 23. Maliki appeared to stop short of endorsing a firm alliance with Talabani, who is 76. "We are old allies that have fought together against dictatorship in order to establish the democratic, federal and independent Iraq," said Talabani. "God willing, our efforts will continue to form a new coalition government."

Mapping a strategy for Mexico

Ten days after assassins in Juarez, Mexico, gunned down three people linked to the U.S. consulate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new strategy for helping Mexican officials fight the country's marauding drug cartels along the U.S. border-a "guns and butter" approach: She said U.S. officials would continue to help Mexican officials buy better tracking equipment, but Clinton said the United States would also help address underlying problems like weak government institutions, porous borders, and unemployment that feeds criminal activity. It's a formidable task: Mexico's problems with poverty and government corruption stretch back decades, and violence has cost some 18,000 lives since 2006. Even the $1.3 billion, three-year program backed by the United States may barely scratch the surface of an ocean of systemic problems.

In the meantime, U.S. law enforcement officials questioned members of an El Paso--based gang in conjunction with the March 13 shootings that killed consulate employee Lesley Enriquez and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, both U.S. citizens. The couple's baby-sitting in the backseat-wasn't injured. Moments later, gunmen chased and killed Jorge Alberto Salcido, a Mexican citizen married to a consulate worker. Police say they haven't determined a motive for the killings.

Badly dented

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat March 23 saying, "There are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports." A government agency concluded that the Israeli government was directly involved in the forging of British passports used in the now widely publicized assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Miliband warned that such actions are "completely unacceptable" and had "badly dented" British-Israeli relations. The dress-down came while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington to speak to Israeli loyalists at the annual AIPAC event-and held two private meetings with President Barack Obama in light of Washington grievances with Israel over its decision to continue building Jewish housing in mostly Arab East Jerusalem.

Ban stands

Kathryn Nurre, now 21, sued the Everett School District in 2006 when it refused to allow her woodwind ensemble-the Henry M. Jackson High School's top performing instrumental group-to perform "Ave Maria" at graduation. The school said it had received complaints about a Negro spiritual in years past and that the program was too short to include a secular song as well. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the school district's favor and on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, letting the previous ruling stand. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with the court's decision, writing in a dissent, "School administrators may not behave like puppet masters who create the illusion that students are engaging in personal expression when in fact the school administration is pulling the strings."

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