EGYPT: U.S. aide meets Islamists
The number two diplomat in the U.S. State Department met yesterday with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the highest-level contact between Washington and the once-banned group poised to dominate the first parliament chosen after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with the head of the Brotherhood's political party, which has won more than 40 percent of the seats in elections that ended Wednesday. The main task of the parliament, scheduled to convene Jan. 23, is to appoint a 100-member panel to write a new constitution. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Burns' meeting was a chance to reinforce U.S. expectations that Egypt's parties will support human rights, women's rights and religious tolerance.
SOUTH AFRICA: A death in student stampede
Women screamed, but the crowd desperate for a chance to study kept pushing at the university gate. Tuesday's stampede killed a mother who had accompanied her son to an in-person application day at the University of Johannesburg campus. Two other people were seriously injured, officials said. Thousands of students and their parents had gathered at the campus to seek admission. Some 11,000 people were expected to vie for as few as 800 spots -- a symptom of a larger crisis in South African education and perhaps contributing to a sense of desperation. Many would-be applicants had only learned they were eligible for further study after getting results from high school finals last week, and university classes start next month.
AUSTRALIA: Cyclone smashes northwest
Tropical Cyclone Heidi lashed northwest Australia with 85-mph winds and torrential rain. There were no immediate reports of injury or substantial damage. Heidi crossed the coast near the mining town of Port Hedland on Thursday morning. Mayor Kelly Howlett told Nine Network television that residents are urged to stay indoors until the all-clear is given.