"All political elites" were invited to a discussion of whether the Palestinian Authority can continue to function under the military pressure being applied by Israel. In a video link Wednesday, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said the discussion was necessary because of "occupation, kidnappings, and assassination" and the jailing of 28 Palestinian legislators or cabinet ministers that have followed the seizure of an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid by Hamas militants in June.
Islamist militiamen seized control of a key town on Somalia's border with Ethiopia Wednesday, forcing local administrators to flee and heightening worry that more confrontations with the nation's weak transitional government are imminent. The fighters from the Union of Islamic Courts also were advancing on Galkaayo, a government stronghold, and fighting there "can start anytime," a spokes-man for the courts union said. Galkaayo is the home of interim President Abdullah Yusuf, and reports from there said the town was tense with anticipation.
Escalating the pressure for a full recount of votes from the July 2 presidential election in Mexico, supporters of leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador blocked access to major foreign-owned banks in the capital Wednesday. The move followed their takeover of toll plazas on roads into Mexico City Tuesday and came as a partial recount ordered by the nation's top electoral court was beginning. The recount could be expanded if it shows López Obrador closing the gap on apparent winner Felipe Calderón. But if not, analysts said López Obrador himself will come under heavy pressure to end his challenge to the close outcome.
The official government newspaper in Cuba featured a warning Wednesday of "subversive" content in TV programs originating from Miami that are widely watched via black-market satellite dishes. It called such programming "fertile ground for those who want to carry out the Bush administration's plan to destroy the Cuban revolution" – a signal, analysts said, that a crackdown on the use of the dishes is imminent. At least 10,000 dishes are estimated to be in use across Cuba, with owners often selling the service to hundreds of neighbors via hidden wires. Since word of Fidel Castro's hospitalization for major surgery July 31, the US has stepped up broadcasts over federally funded TV and radio beamed at Cuba. The condition of his health since the operation is a state secret.
An official request for help in coping with devastating floods has been received from North Korea, a committee that works for unification of the peninsula reported. Major storms last month killed at least 549 North Koreans, left an unknown number of others missing or homeless, and destroyed roads, railways, and other vital elements of the nation's infrastructure. The government initially rejected offers of aid from the Red Cross and said it would deal with the disaster on its own. But the reconciliation committee in South Korea said Wednesday that its counterpart had faxed a request for food, medicines, blankets, machinery, and building materials. South Korea halted food aid last month after the North rejected demands that it explain why it defied international warnings and test-fired seven ballistic missiles.
Five people were arrested on suspicion of setting some of the fires that have scorched tens of thousands of acres in northwestern Spain. As many as 110 separate blazes were burning Wednesday, although 49 were reported contained. High winds and dry conditions were helping the others to spread. Neighboring Portugal, which offered to help battle the blazes, had to rescind the gesture because of its own wildfires.