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Who owns hummus?

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Lebanon plans to charge Israel with violating a food copyright by marketing provisions such as hummus and falafel as Israeli, Fadi Abboud, the president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association announced Monday. Abboud contends that these foods are historically Lebanese, and that Israel's appropriation of them has cost the Levantine country profits "estimated at tens of millions of dollars annually."

Lebanon's case will likely rely on "the feta precedent," said Abboud. Six years ago, Greece was able to win a monopoly on the production of feta cheese from the European Parliament by proving that the cheese and had been produced in Greece under that name for several millennia.

The origins of hummus remain shrouded in mystery, but attempts to claim the food as a "national dish" remain a reliable way to start nationalistic squabbles across the region. Bringing this case to the courts, however, is unlikely to win the Lebanese government points even with a domestic audience. Most likely, it will simply reinforce the belief that while Hezbollah readies its rockets against Israel, all the Lebanese state can muster is frivolous lawsuits.

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Morning Brief: Panic goes global

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In yet another unprecedented step in what is becoming an increasingly harrowing global financial crisis, central banks in the United States, Europe, and Canada announced a coordinated rate cut of half a percentage point.

The move comes after a tough day in the equity markets and follows the British government's announcement that it is partly nationalizing its banking system.

European shares rebounded on today's news as European finance ministers settled on a set of common principles for rescuing troubled banks. 

Asian stocks? Not so much. Central banks in Asia are working furiously now to shore up their own countries' financial sectors, and Russia is pumping $37 billion into state institutions.

Iceland, meanwhile, appears to be imploding economically

Decision '08

Last night's 90-minute, "town hall" style debate between the U.S. presidential candidates was a muted affair overshadowed by the economic crisis. The New York Times' Adam Nagourney characterizes it as "an often stifled encounter, largely absent of dramatic confrontations or the personal exchanges that dominated the campaign over the past several days."

Barack Obama was "the clear winner," according to post-debate polls and Slate's John Dickerson. "McCain loses by not winning," says Politico's Roger Simon. More reactions here.

Americas

Two Americans and a Japanese scientist won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded Friday.

The Galapagos islands' booming tourist economy is attracting illegal migrants.

Tracy Wilkinson looks at the implications of the recent drug slaying of a Mexican mayor for the Los Angeles Times.

Asia

A U.S. federal judge ordered the release of 17 Uighurs who have been held at the Guantánamo Bay prison since 2002. China seems eager to have them

The brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, accused Sunday of involvement in heroin trafficking, reportedly met with ex-Taliban leaders in Riyadh last month.

At least two people died and more than 350 were reportedly injured in yesterday's riots in Thailand.

Middle East and Africa

The United States is "close" to reaching a security arrangement with Iraq, according to the State Department.

An ally of former South African President Thabo Mbeki is threatening to splinter the ruling party, the African National Congress.

Zimbabwe's power-sharing arrangement is "close to disintegrating," Time reports.

Europe and the Caucasus

Russia has begun pulling out of its "buffer zone" around South Ossetia, or so it claims.

Russian strategic bombers made contact with Japanese fighter jets.

Germany's cabinet agreed to send an additional 1,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Today's Agenda

Maldives is holding a historic presidential election.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in Europe for a series of meetings with defense ministers.

The IMF introduces Chapter 8 of its latest World Economic Outlook.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the 2008 annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army.