Morning Brief, Wednesday, May 9

Middle East

Pool/Gerald Herbert

Vice President Dick Cheney landed in Baghdad for a surprise visit with Gen. David Petraeus and Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki as news broke that U.S. commanders believe the surge will need to last through at least spring of 2008. The Post's David Ignatius says to watch Cheney's trip to Saudi Arabia, though, to know what's really going on in the region. And House lawmakers introduced a measure to make half the supplemental Iraq War costs contingent on the Iraqi government meeting certain key political benchmarks by July.

Bad move: Iran sent Haleh Esfandiari, widely respected director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, to an infamous prison in Tehran


A "senior World Bank official" tells the Washington Post that a proposal to allow the United States to name Wolfowitz's replacement in exchange for the Bank president's resignation has the support of just a few smaller European countries. 

Nicolas Sarkozy: reformer or economic nationalist? Europe's central bankers are already warning France's president not to blame his country's problems on them. And the Socialists are slamming Sarkozy for celebrating his victory with a yacht trip to Malta.

British police announced the arrests of four people allegedly connected to the July 2005 attacks on London's transportation system.


China's Shanghai Composite Index soared above 4,000 points for the first time despite efforts by the central bank to tame the raging bulls.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set off mild reactions from China and South Korea when he sent a plant as an offering instead of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial memorial to Japan's war dead.

Last year, China took some $3 billion of a $4.8 billion U.N. program designed to subsidize clean energy in the developing world. 

Pakistan's bizarre public awareness campaign to have citizens report missing radioactive materials is alarming U.S. arms control experts


U.S. federal authorities brought charges against six Muslim men for allegedly planning to attack Fort Dix, a U.S. military base in New Jersey.

India's biotech industry expects to double in size by 2010. 

Zimbabwe's opposition is falling apart

Today's Agenda

  • Timor-Leste votes to choose its new president.
  • The pope arrives in Brazil, a country where Roman Catholicism is dominant but on the decline.
  • Russia commemorates "Victory Day" in World War II while Estonia boils.
  • DeBeers chief Gareth Penny addresses members of the World Diamond Council at their annual meeting in Jerusalem. The topic? Blood diamonds.
  • The Open Market Committee of the U.S. Federal Reserve meets to set interest rates. Analysts expect no change.

Yesterday on Passport


Tuesday Map: Google Earth does bird flu

Google Earth is fast becoming a tool of choice for looking at big problems like genocide in Darfur. The latest innovative use of the 3-D mapping software? Tracking bird flu.

Researchers led by Daniel Janies, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Ohio State University, used Google Earth to create a color-coded "evolutionary tree" of the avian flu virus (H5N1) over a 10-year time period. They published their findings in the latest issue of Systemic Biology, a bimonthly journal. By showing the data in new ways, the mapping tool could help other researchers and public health officials develop better strategies to fight the virus. (If you've seen the latest episodes of the television show Heroes, it looks somewhat like Hiro Nakamura's map of the past. But in this case, the map's colors refer to different types of hosts for the H5N1 virus.)

If you've got Google Earth, you can check out their data for yourself here. If not, check out the video tour here.