• Interviewing Aliyev : Correspondent Fred Weir has been to Azerbaijan more than half a dozen times. This trip was the first time, since President Ilham Aliyev was elected in 2003, that Fred has spoken to him directly.
"He's a very impressive, very charismatic individual," says Fred, who met with the president in Baku with about 10 other journalists in a trip organized by the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Moscow. "Aliyev answered every question, and switched easily back and forth between Russian and English – neither of which are his native tongue. Not many world leaders can do that.
"You really want to believe him," says Fred. "Baku, the capital, is greatly transformed by the new oil wealth. But outside of Baku, almost nothing has changed. And Azerbaijan ranks at the bottom of most NGO lists of corruption and human rights."
During previous visits, Fred found the US officials in Baku solidly pro-Aliyev. But this time, the tone had changed. Fred says it may have to do Aliyev's support of Iran. "He told us that he won't cooperate with sanctions on Iran or allow US troops to be staged in the country."
Follow–up on a story
• Blind Lawyer Wins Appeal: A Chinese court, citing inadequate evidence, overturned the guilty verdict of a blind activist who was sentenced to four years in prison after documenting claims of forced abortions, his lawyer told the Associated Press.
Chen Guangcheng's case has drawn international attention, including a July 28 Monitor article, as an example of what human rights groups say is official retaliation against dissidents.
Mr. Chen's supporters said officials fabricated the charges against him in retaliation after he documented complaints that officials enforcing China's birth-control regulations forced villagers to have abortions and sterilizations.
David Clark Scott