Syria: The war-torn country is holding its own elections today. President Bashar al-Assad calls them the first multiparty legislative elections in five years. The opposition is boycotting the poll, calling it a sham designed to keep al-Assad in power.
Russia: Welcome back, Vladimir. Russian President Vladimir Putin is sworn in today to a third term as president of the Russian Federation following a four-year hiatus as prime minister. His decision to seek the highest office was greeted with unprecedented popular protests in December.
Putin dangled the possibility of a new and improved relationship with the United States during a meeting this past week with Obama's top security aide, the Interfax news agency reported. "Putin emphasized that in developing the relationship with the United States, Russia is ready to go really far, on condition that the Americans will act on the principles of an equal and mutually respectful partnership," foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted as saying. In the same breath, however, Russia threatened missile strikes if the United States goes forward with plans to install a missile defense shield in Poland and Romania.
Arab Spring: The United States and other Western nations participate in a two-day conference, starting today in Cairo, on reviving private investment in Arab Spring countries.
The public-private conference is a good chance for the United States to fight terrorism through economic development instead of drone strikes, says Bloomberg-Businessweek.
Afghanistan: The United States has for several years been secretly releasing high-level detainees from a military prison in Afghanistan as part of negotiations with insurgent groups, The Washington Post reports.
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