MakiliIraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's party, the State of Law Coalition, lost the March 7 parliamentary elections in a fractured vote, but appears to have embarked upon a course of using political violence as a means of erasing the election results. “At least four Sunni Muslim candidates who appear to have won parliamentary seats in Iraq on the winning ticket of secular leader Ayad Allawi have become targets of investigation by security forces reporting to the narrowly defeated Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki,” McClatchy news service reported March 27.

Hugo ChavezIn his latest paranoid crackdown on free speech, socialist Venezuelan “President” Hugo Chavez arrested the chief of the last critical television network as well as a popular former governor. Their alleged crimes: criticizing the regime.

The Washington Post has reported that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has met with representatives of Hizb-i-Islami — a major Taliban-linked insurgent group — in a step toward national reconciliation, citing a presidential spokesman’s March 22 statement.

The quartet — a group comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations that focuses on Middle East peace — met in Moscow on March 19. At the meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the proposals offered by the Israeli government to reduce diplomatic tensions with the United States were “useful and productive,” and that the Obama administration would continue talks with Israel in Jerusalem and Washington.

Brandenburg GateGermany, which has a higher rate of savings and a lower government debt than other nations in the European Union, is being criticized by officials in nations like Greece, Spain, and Portugal for a “deficit fetish.” The government debt and government spending in a number of European nations have been spiraling out of control. Unions and political pressure have driven up costs, and there is no strong political will in those nations to undertake steps to control debt or spending.