The news at a glance ... International
Kabul, AfghanistanKarzai’s complaint: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ratcheted up his anti-American rhetoric, angering an already exasperated Obama administration. Still smarting from a recent tongue-lashing by President Obama for tolerating corruption, Karzai last week accused the U.S. and the West of perpetrating a “vast fraud” in last year’s presidential polls as part of a plot to tarnish his victory. Then, in a private speech to lawmakers, Karzai reportedly said that if the “foreign pressure” to make reforms continued, he might quit politics and “join the Taliban.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama has not ruled out canceling a meeting with Karzai scheduled for next month in Washington. When asked whether Karzai was still considered an ally, Gibbs ducked the question.
North Waziristan, PakistanMilitants driven into caves: A steady barrage of deadly U.S. drone attacks has forced Taliban and al Qaida militants who once operated freely in Pakistan’s tribal areas to go into hiding, American officials say. The stepped-up pace of attacks began last December, after a suicide bomber killed seven people at a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan. Since then, scores of militants have been killed in near-daily drone strikes, authorities said. Militants no longer use satellite phones or attend celebrations, and Arab fighters have abandoned the villages altogether for hideouts in caves and tunnels in the mountains. “It seems they really want to kill everyone,” an unnamed militant tells The New York Times, “not just the leaders.”
Peshawar, PakistanU.S. consulate attacked: Insurgents armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades killed eight people when they blew up a truck bomb at the gate of the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar this week. The brazen daylight attack was one of the biggest assaults on a U.S. facility in Pakistan in years. No Americans were killed, but several of the dead were consulate employees. Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said the attack was revenge for U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions near the Afghanistan border. “Americans are our enemies,” Tariq said. “We plan more such attacks.”
DelhiCounting to 1 billion: India has begun the biggest census in the history of humankind. Because the government wants to photograph and fingerprint every citizen over age 15 so it can create national ID cards, simply mailing in a form is not an option. Instead, some 2.5 million census workers speaking dozens of languages will fan out over the country, visiting every village in an attempt to interview all 1 billion–plus Indians. The challenges are immense, as most of the poor are illiterate, some lack surnames, and many don’t know their birthdays. “An exercise of this kind has not been attempted anywhere else in the world,” said Home Affairs Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.
Jining, ChinaBabies dumped: Shocked Chinese citizens are demanding stricter oversight of hospitals, after the gruesome discovery that a hospital dumped the corpses of 21 babies along a riverbed. Though some questioned whether the babies were killed because they were girls, officials said they died of natural causes in the Affiliated Hospital of Jining Medical College; many still had tiny ID tags on their legs. Many rural Chinese don’t consider babies under the age of 1 to be full members of the family and infants’ bodies are often abandoned at the hospital. Two hospital morgue workers were charged with dumping the bodies, and the hospital director was fired.
Great Barrier Reef, AustraliaEcodisaster threatens: In an accident that officials say could trigger Australia’s worst-ever ecological disaster, a Chinese coal ship that strayed seven miles off-course went aground on the Great Barrier Reef, spewing oil from its ruptured tank onto protected corals in the world’s largest reef system. Australian officials rushed to contain the 1,075 tons of oil that the ship was carrying, but it wasn’t immediately clear how successful they would be. The Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of plant and animal species, including 30 kinds of whales and dolphins and many species found nowhere else on Earth. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd threatened legal action against the Chinese state-owned company that operates the ship. “From my point of view as prime minister of Australia,” he said, “there is no greater natural asset for Australia than the Great Barrier Reef.”