1 | France
Selling Warships to Russia
Amid protests from the U.S. and Georgia, French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed on March 1 that France was negotiating the sale of four Mistral-class assault ships to Russia. The announcement, which came at the start of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's three-day state visit, marks the first such deal between Moscow and a NATO country. While Sarkozy described the deal as an attempt to move beyond Soviet-era politics, nearby nations have raised concerns about the decision to sell the ships--which can carry troops, helicopters and armored vehicles--to a country that launched an offensive against one of its neighbors (Georgia) less than two years ago.
2 | Spain
ETA Has a Rough Week
On March 2, a Spanish court sentenced Arnaldo Otegi--leader of Batasuna, the political wing of the Basque separatist group ETA--to two years in jail for "glorifying terrorism" during a 2005 speech. It was the second major blow to the organization that week, following the arrest by French authorities of ETA leader Ibon Gogeascoechea and two accomplices. More than 30 suspected ETA members have been arrested this year.
3 | Washington
Rangel Takes a Break
Hoping to quiet calls for his permanent removal as the result of an ethics investigation, Democratic Representative Charles Rangel of New York said on March 3 that he would temporarily step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. While the probe has already confirmed that Rangel violated congressional gift rules by going on two corporate-sponsored Caribbean trips, the list of additional allegations before the panel is a lengthy one, including tax violations involving his Dominican Republic home and the illegal use of a New York City apartment as a campaign office.
4 | Iraq
Violence Before the Vote
A series of suicide bombings hit the Iraqi city of Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 31 people and wounding dozens more. The blasts, which came just days ahead of the country's March 7 parliamentary elections, are the latest in a string of attacks by extremists with links to al-Qaeda aimed at destabilizing the country and disrupting elections. In anticipation of further election-related violence, Iraqi officials are planning an increase in security measures across the country, including curfews, vehicle bans and heightened police surveillance.
5 | Washington
Supreme Court Tackles the Second Amendment
Adding new ammunition to the debate over gun control, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 2 in McDonald v. Chicago, a case challenging the constitutionality of Chicago's handgun ban. If, as is expected, the Justices rule in favor of 76-year-old Otis McDonald--who says he fears for his safety without a gun--they could lay the groundwork for gun-control laws to be loosened across the country. Firearms account for about 30,000 deaths each year in the U.S. The city of Chicago maintains that its 28-year-old handgun ban saves hundreds of lives a year. A ruling is not expected until summer.
6 | Mexico
LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE