Today's lineup: Taliban PR, pope's trip, Florida builders

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Here are the major stories we're producing today. (Note that as we post stories, we put a live link into the summary that will take you to the story itself):

• The Pope today called for a lift on the Gaza embargo that allows only minimal food and medicine into the territory. Netanyahu is expected to remove all restrictions on foodstuffs when he meets with Obama on Monday. Ilene Prusher is looking at the humanitarian impacts of the blockade on citizens and aid workers, with reporting from inside Gaza.

• In the battle over public perceptions in Afghanistan, the US and its allies have been outgunned by the Taliban. But the US is ramping up its effort to seize the initiative in the information war. Jason Montlagh in Herat, Afghanistan writes on the emerging battle plan.

Recommended: The Malala moment: 6 Pakistani views on the girl shot by the Taliban

Jane Arraf in Iraq is looking into how worried US officials are about the spike of attacks in Iraq. Might US troops have to stay longer?

• The homebuilding industry is at a nearly total standstill in South Florida. Jacqui Goddard writes that only 43 new homes were built in the Miami metro area during the first quarter of 2009. Soup kitchens for contractors are opening up, and some are holding out for the rebuilding work of hurricane season.

Other world news stories:

• In London, Ben Quinn covers the biggest political scandal to hit Britain in a generation. Members of Parliament are accused of abusing public funds to pay
for personal expenses ranging from building moats for their country estates to changing the lightbulbs in their London apartments.

• As tens of thousands of refugees pour out of Pakistan's Swat Valley, the traditional hospitality of their neighbors is put to the test. Ben Arnoldy is finding that it passes that test, as some families even move out of their own homes to make room for the displaced.

• The Cannes film festival kicks off tonight with Disney/Pixar film UP. Robert Koehler raises the curtain for the event.

Elsewhere on the national front:

Mark Guarino has found that hard drug use is rising among teens in New Orleans as many youths find it difficult to deal with the emotional upheaval of Katrina's lingering aftermath – homes destroyed and pets lost.

Gail Chaddock on Capitol Hill is watching as the Senate seeks to unearth more information about who knew what when regarding harsh, and possibly illegal, interrogations of war-on-terror detainees – even though it may make the Democratic leadership on the Hill very uncomfortable.

• Thinking of staging a protest in Washington? Probably not. But if you were, our "DC Decoder" Peter Grier explains why you might want to think again.

• And in her environment blog, Judy Lowe explains the top ten myths about green living.

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