Today's briefing: Pakistan's struggle, China after the quake, and the health of the US economy

Here's what were working on in the Monitor newsroom and bureaus:


- Simon Montlake reports from Sri Lanka: With more Sri Lankans pouring in to already crowded
refugee camps, foreign governments and aid groups are sending more and more aid. But is it arriving? And how bad are conditions in the camps? Read his report here.

- From Prague, Jeffrey White looks at how the European Union is trying to forge stronger ties with former Soviet states to help them with both economic challenges and the pressure they are facing from a resurgent Russia. Read about the summit here.

- From Pakistan: Aid groups are expecting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Swat valley region (an update here) – a wave that could help wash out public and government tolerance of the Taliban, or, conversely, heap more disapproval on Pakistan’s ineffective leadership. In related news, our Pentagon correspondent, Gordon Lubold, reports on how, while the US is praising Pakistan's intensifying offensive against the Taliban, there are questions about whether the US is being permitted, or asked, to do anything else.

- From southwestern China, the Monitor's Peter Ford reports (click here) that after last year's Sichuan quake many psychologists volunteered to help survivors cope with the trauma. He profiles of one team of psychologists. Carol Huang, meanwhile, has details (here) on China's release of the numbers of schoolchildren killed in the

In US news:

- Stacey Teicher Khadaroo writes about the gradations of illiteracy in the US and the picture now emerging of Americans at the lowest-functioning level of all – and how better to help them.

-Laurent Belsie notes that appreciation of values in homes has been flat over five years. He also reports on the percent of homeowners "underwater" on their mortgages. And he finds "havens" (noted here) from the real estate storm. Alexandra Marks, meanwhile, examines whether homeownership is more affordable now that prices have dropped so far?

We're also following:

- the stress test report today on US banks. Here's Mark Trumbull's report.

- The jockeying is under way to influence President Obama's choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

- Details of the Obama administration's full budget, including the fine print
of what gets spared and what gets the ax.
... And you'll be happy to know that the possible trade war involving luxury cheese has been averted. The EU agreed to take more non-hormone beef from the US. Euro diplomats see this as a victory; US cattlemen are not so sure.

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