U.S. troop departure leaves Shiites and Sunnis separate, unequal
BAGHDAD — Sunnis are locked out of key jobs at universities and in government, their leaders banned from Cabinet meetings or even marked as fugitives.
Critics charge that Prime Minister Nourial-Maliki is suspicious of all Sunnis, even those who never joined the insurgency or later abandoned it, and is punishing a community that lost its protectors when the Americans left Iraq in December, ending eight years of occupation.
Baghdad now has the appearance of an exclusively Shiite city, with streets and bridges renamed after Shiite saints, Shiite green, black and red banners flying almost everywhere and giant posters of Shiite saints towering over all else on major squares.
French presidential candidate wants to tax rich 75 percent
PARIS — French presidential candidate Francois Hollande, leading in polls but lacking in ideas that stick in voters' minds, finally dropped a bombshell: As president, he would levy a 75 percent tax on anyone who makes more than €1 million ($1.33 million) a year.
The flashy idea from the normally bland Socialist proved wildly popular, fanning hostility toward executive salaries and forcing President Nicolas Sarkozy to defend his ostentatious friendships with the rich. It also unleashed debate in the French press about whether the wealthy would decamp for gentler tax pastures.
As much as France likes the plan, it does not seem to have assured Hollande's victory, which, just three weeks before the first round of voting, is growing more uncertain as Sarkozy reaps the benefits of projecting presidential mettle following France's shooting attacks.
Polls put the two men neck-and-neck in the first round April 22, and show Sarkozy gaining on Hollande for the decisive runoff May 6.
New museum chronicles obsession with Titanic
SOUTHAMPTON, England — A new museum opening April 10 in the English port city of Southampton will explain how the world has reported, retold, and sometimes become utterly fixated on the fateful night in April 1912 that saw the White Star liner sink beneath the waves.
Nearly 100 years to the day since the Titanic went down, claiming 1,514 lives, the demise of the reputedly unsinkable ship continues to fascinate; launching films, books, television mini-series and museums.
SeaCity — which scoured the Internet for many of its items — came up with a wide range of kitsch. The "Tubtanic" bath plug lets you splash along with a toy version of the ocean liner as you wash your hair. There are paperweights, in case you'd like the sinking ship to anchor your paper. The Titanic-branded golf balls, one imagines, can help excuse a disastrous swing.
Titanic memorabilia collector John Creamer put it best in his written introduction to one of the exhibits.
"There's some weird stuff out there," he said.
Syrian troops start to pull out
BEIRUT — Syrian troops began pulling out Tuesday from some calm cities, a government official said.
President Bashar Assad agreed just days ago to an April 10 deadline to implement international envoy Kofi Annan's truce plan. It requires regime forces to withdraw from towns and cities and observe a cease-fire. Rebel fighters are to immediately follow by ceasing violence.
Khaled al-Omar, an activist in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, denied that any withdrawal was under way in his area.
"This is impossible. I can see a checkpoint from my window," he said via Skype, adding the regime forces were still in the main square.
"He thinks he can win more time to take control of all Syrian cities," activist Adel al-Omari said by phone from the southern town of Dael, where regime forces have been torching activists' homes since they raided Monday. "This won't happen, because as soon as he withdraws his tanks from the cities, the people will come out and push to topple the regime."