TEHRAN, Iran — Polling places at schools and mosques in the Iranian capital were crammed today with voters in what has become a surprisingly competitive race to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the nation’s president.
The campaign pits three major conservatives against a candidate supported by reformers and moderates, with six total contenders handpicked by the country’s premier religious and political authority.
TANA RIVER DELTA, Kenya — The first attacks began a year ago, pitting semi-nomadic Orma cattle herders against Pokomo maize farmers. There were a handful of deaths but nothing out of the ordinary in this baking hot corner of Kenya, where competition for that most precious resource — water — is fierce.
The government did nothing as the ferocity and body counts of the tit-for-tat raids escalated: six dead in August, 54 a few weeks later, then 11, then 39 (including nine police officers). Finally the authorities stepped in, a curfew was imposed and the raids stopped, for a while.
In December they began again: 32 Orma were killed in the village of Kipao just before Christmas. A few weeks ago, 11 Pokomo were killed in Kibusu.
The toll is now more than 180, according to human rights groups. During the attacks women and children — some just babies — have been disproportionately targeted.
Now for your morning news roundup with GlobalPost Chatter
Need to know: It’s Election Day -1, and swing state voters, the candidates are coming for you.
Floridians, Virginians, New Hampshirites, Wisconsinites, Iowans and Ohioans – above all, the Ohioans – can expect a full-frontal assault as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney squeeze their final hours of campaigning for all they’re worth. The latest polls have Obama marginally ahead in seven of the nine battlegrounds; Romney leads in Florida and North Carolina for the moment, though who knows where anything will stand after tonight’s mind-boggling campaign finale that’ll see Mitt share a stage with Kid Rock.
At least five homemade bombs were detonated this morning around the capital, Manama. Both victims were men originally from Asia, according to police. A third man, also Asian, was injured. An investigation is underway into the attacks, which Bahraini state media describes as acts of “domestic terror.”
The blasts come less than a week after the government banned all protests and public gatherings amid escalating violence between demonstrators and police. Bahrainis were “fed up” with rallies ending in clashes, the Interior Ministry said then; they’ll have a lot more to be fed up with if, as observers warned it would, the ban has only aggravated the situation.
Dull but important: South Korea has been forced to shut down two nuclear reactors, after discovering that some of their parts were not properly certified.
Some 5,000 components in the 1978-built Yeonggwang nuclear complex have fake quality certificates, officials believe. Knowledge Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo assured that the parts – which include fuses, cooling fans and power switches – are “non-core” and don’t compromise the plant’s safety; nonetheless they must be replaced, which means keeping the reactors offline until January.
The two-month shutdown leaves South Korea facing “unprecedented” power shortages, Hong warns. And if the repairs take any longer, he says, the country will experience a “dramatic” drop in electricity supply, right in the dead of winter.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales faces charges of premeditated and attempted murder over one of the worst atrocities of the war in Afghanistan: a pre-dawn shooting rampage over two villages that left nine children and seven adults dead, six people wounded, and several of the bodies burned.
In a preliminary hearing that begins today and may continue for as long as two weeks, lawyers will attempt to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a court martial. Witnesses in Afghanistan will testify via video link, but Bales himself is not expected to speak.
The only comment so far has come from his wife, who insists: “My husband did not do this… I don’t think we have even begun to have the truth.”
Researchers in bioengineering are working on the first stages of building a next-generation implant that, unlike current pacemakers, wouldn’t require batteries. Instead, it could power itself by “harvesting” electrical energy created through mechanical pressure – namely, the beating of the patient’s own heart.
The innovation would save pacemaker recipients – often children – the operations they currently have to undergo every five to seven years to change the implant’s batteries. Proof to the haters that scientists are doing something worthwhile, in between building jellyfish robots and remotely controlling cockroachs.
CASAS GRANDES, CHIHUAHUA, Mexico — Mitt Romney’s father was born in Mexico, but the Republican candidate seldom speaks of his family’s time there.
It turns out that some of his extended clan still live south of the border.
The Romneys of Mexico reside in the hills of Casas Grandes (meaning “big houses”) in Chihuahua, about 190 miles from Texas.
A Mormon village in Chihuahua, Mexico. (Edgar Muñoz/GlobalPost)
The town is home to some 8,000 people. As many as 50 of them claim to be related to the man in a tight race with Barack Obama to be America’s next president.
Of those relatives, many of the men have Anglo names and speak fluent English. They are taller and have fairer hair and complexion than most of their Mexican neighbors. Some bear a striking resemblance to the former Massachusetts governor.
They are members of Mexico’s Mormon community, whose roots can be traced to pioneers who ventured from Arizona and Utah in the late 1800s.
And they are by no means humble “campesinos.”
They worship at a temple made of marble, whose lavish gold-trim interior nobody but Mormons is allowed to enter.
Their homes are mansions by Mexican standards — featuring three floors, many rooms and manicured yards with French-style fountains.
Romney’s Mexican clan are powerful farmers. They grow vast fields of peppers, peaches, pears and apples. Through a farm cooperative called Paquime, they export the high-quality produce to the United States.
Leighton Romney. (Edgar Muñoz/GlobalPost)
“My dad was born of American parents living in Mexico. But he came back to this country at age 5 or 6 and was helped to get on his feet,” Mitt Romney said on Spanish-language TV network Univision’s “Meet the Candidate” forum in September.
His father George Romney was born on July 8, 1907, in a home that’s still standing in the Colonia Dublan community of Casas Grandes. He and fellow Mormons left for the United States before social upheaval tore through Mexico to spark the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
George Romney went on to have an illustrious career in business and politics. He was head of American Motors Company and served as governor of Michigan and a cabinet member for Richard Nixon, the president who as a candidate had defeated George Romney in the 1968 Republican primaries. (His birthplace outside the United States did raise questions about whether he could run for president, although he was generally viewed as eligible.)
Mitt Romney, who stands a chance at becoming the first Mormon president, has sparked criticism for joking that he wished he were really Mexican.
While trying to woo a room full of wealthy Republican campaign donors, he suggested that had his father been born of Mexican parents, “I’d have a better shot of winning this.”
That moment, captured clandestinely on video, was one of the clumsier of very few references to the Romneys’ Mexico years.
He refers to the Mexico chapter of his father’s life in his 2010 book “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.” Yet he only dedicates a short paragraph to that period. In reality he has said and written very little about his family’s Mexican origins.
Furthermore, Mexico — and for that matter Latin America overall — has been but a footnote in the 2012 campaign, even as foreign policy stole center stage.
The Romneys of Mexico say Mitt has never set foot on the land in Mexico that once belonged to his father — one more sign, some say, of his disconnect with the country.
“I believe that Mitt Romney does not have a commitment to his roots, because I don’t feel it,” said Mitt’s second cousin Leighton Romney, a Mormon community leader in Colonia Juarez. “He does identify that his father was born in Mexico, but his dad left the country at a young age and was an American citizen.”
George Romney, cousins say, was different.
Steven Romney, who says he’s the candidate’s second cousin, said when George once returned to Casas Grandes, the Michigan governor identified his Mexican relatives and expressed his great love of the country.
Abdul Habib, a 47-year-old bicycle repair man from Afghanistan said he would vote for, "Mitt Romney. Obama has not put his words into actions. Maybe something prevented him, he was weak or there were other problems, but he has still not implemented his promises.”