Hurricane Ike made landfall in Cuba with 100 m.p.h. winds and torrential rain Monday and was expected to travel almost the entire length of the island before tracking toward the Gulf of Mexico. But Cuba has a long history of taking life-saving measures in hurricanes, and an estimated 900,000 people had fled to reinforced shelters. Less fortunate was neighboring Haiti, where Ike was blamed for at least 58 deaths, on top of the 261 attributed to three earlier storms in less than a month.

Without saying why, Russian troops refused a UN humanitarian observer mission access to a region of Georgia Monday. The denial came as the Inter-national Court of Justice heard opening arguments in Georgia's appeal against a "campaign of harassment and persecution" in the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

A US Marine unit handed responsibility over a former Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan to government forces Monday, ending a four-month campaign to rid it of militants. The move is expected to encourage noncombatants to return to the Garmsir district of volatile Helmand Province. During the offensive, the marines killed more than 400 Taliban who had used the area as a logistics hub, a NATO spokesman said.

Perhaps the largest show of military might in North Korean history is expected Tuesday in Pyongyang, despite the reclusive nation's admitted food shortages and questions about the health of leader Kim Jong Il. The parade, on the 60th anniversary of the communist takeover, also comes amid an impasse in international efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear programs. Speculation that Kim's health may have worsened has grown since reports last weekend that a Chinese medical team was en route to Pyongyang, perhaps to treat him.

Mediator Thabo Mbeki was due back in Zimbabwe's capital Monday for what may be his final try at producing a power-sharing agreement between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and President Robert Mugabe. The two sides are deadlocked over how much authority Mugabe should give up, and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said he'd rather pull out of the talks than sign a bad deal. Mbeki, the president of neighboring South Africa, is widely seen as not having been forceful enough with the hard-line Mugabe, and the MDC has made it clear that it has little faith in his mediation skills.

Forty-one members of parliament from Malaysia's ruling coalition left for an overseas "study tour" Monday as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's self-imposed deadline for attracting defectors to his side drew closer. The legislators said they'd observe farming methods in Taiwan and insisted that the trip had nothing to do with Anwar's campaign. But at least eight more colleagues were to join them Tuesday. The ruling coalition has 140 seats in parliament, compared with Anwar's 82. Anwar has set a deadline of next Tuesday to topple the government by enlisting a majority of legislators to his side.

Surprising even themselves, democracy activists won enough seats in Hong Kong's legislative election Sunday to retain influence over any future reform agenda. Pro-democracy parties took 23 of the 60 seats being contested, even though a surge of nationalistic pride over the Olympic Summer Games had been expected to produce substantial gains by candidates loyal to the central government in Beijing. The latter has ruled out direct elections for all Hong Kong legislators until 2020 at the earliest.

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