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Checking in on the rest of the world

The tragedy in Haiti has been a rare instance where the attention of the U.S. public has been intensely focused on an event overseas. But with Scott Brown's ascendancy, attention has swiftly shifted back to domestic politics. (Wolf Blitzer looked like he had whiplash on CNN last night trying to transition back in forth between the two stories.)

While both stories are undeniably important, they're hardly the only things going on in the world right now. Here are some major recent developments in world hotspots that have gotten short shrift in the press in recent days:

Afghanistan:
President Hamid Karzai announced plans to entice Taliban fighters to lay  down their arms in exchange for land and pensions. Asked if the program would work any better than previous efforts, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke responded, "It can't be any worse."

The names of 645 detainees at Bagram airbase have been released. 

Iraq:
Violence continues to rise ahead of March's parliamentary elections. Gunmen killed five people in the office of a Baghdad charity in what appear to be the city's first targeted killings of civilians in more than two years. 

Russia:
U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen have left for Moscow to hammer out the final details on a successor to the START treaty. 

A journalist in Siberia was beaten to death by police. 

Israel:
The Knesset passed a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Netanyahu's foreign policy on Monday. Embarassingly, the vote came on the same day as a visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. U.S. envoy George Mitchell is also in the region to try to restrat Israel-Syria peace talks. 

Nigeria:
Religious rioting has left more than 400 people dead, a situation that isn't be helped by the fact that ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua is still AWOL. Yar'Adua is said to finally be out of the hospital, though. 

Yemen:
As Yemen continues to bomb al Qaeda targets, Saudi Arabia continues its bloody fight against the Shiite Houthi rebels. It's Saudi Arabia's first significant military operation since the Gulf War.

Venezuela:
In recent days, Hugo Chavez's government has taken over three banks, a French-owned supermarket chain, and jailed a political opponent on graft charges. 

Chile:
Lucky dogs Blake and Beth went to Chile to report on last weekend's election, which has brought a right-wing government to power for the first time since the end of the Pinochet era. 

Somalia
The U.N. reports that more than 63,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Somalia in just the last 19 days. It's hard to imagine that a disruption on this level in any other region except the Horn of Africa wouldn't be a major international story.  

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Congress rehashes the pants bomber fail

This morning, members of congress questioned key counterterrorism officials about the Pantsbomber and Ft. Hood incidents. The Senate Homeland Security Committee heard testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter, and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair in public and classified sessions. The Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed FBI Director Robert Mueller and State's Patrick Kennedy. And at 2:30 this afternoon, the Commerce Committee started hearing testimony from Napolitano, Leiter, and the 9/11 commission's Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton.

The key word? Failure.

"Let me start with this clear assertion," read the prepared testimony for Leiter, "Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should not have stepped on that plane. The counterterrorism system failed and I told the President we are determined to do better."

Later: "The counterterrorism system failed...We didn't do things well and we didn't do things right."

With more elaboration: "As the President has said, this was not -- like in 2001 -- a failure to collect or share intelligence; rather it was a failure to connect, integrate, and understand the intelligence we had."

So too with Napolitano, pilloried for suggesting shortly after the attack that "the system worked." Today, she was all about the f-word.

Blair, Napolitano, and Leiter squabbled about just who failed to do what, with Blair and Leiter stressing signal-to-noise problems and Napolitano stressing flawed intel hampering the security protocol. Politico reports: "'The bottom line is this: He was not on the no-fly list,' [Napolitano] said, calling DHS a 'consumer' of the information on the list. In the aftermath of Abdulmutallab's attempt, ‘the DHS responded,' she said."

Senators at the hearings seemed interested in getting accountability for the failings, not just figuring out what they were -- a task now assigned to longtime CIA operative John McLaughlin.

"Where does the buck stop with respect to these failures?" asked Byron Dorgan, a Democrat of North Dakota -- a point echoed strongly by Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent of Connecticut, and Sen. John McCain, a Republican of Arizona. The latter two senators, indeed, are calling for someone's head to roll, with Blair, who has recently and publicly clashed with CIA Director Leon Panetta, considered vulnerable.

So, plenty of elaboration on fail.

What I'd like to hear more about? The manhunt for radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in the States and now lives in rural Yemen. He allegedly advised both the Pantsbomber and the Ft. Hood shooter -- and the U.S. and Yemeni forces are currently targeting him with troops and drone strikes.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images