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While U Slept. The Big 5 Overnight Stories. Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 17, 2010

UPDATED IRAQI VOTE TOTALS: VIRTUAL DEAD HEAT BETWEEN MALIKI AND ALLAWI Surprise showing gives former leader Allawi slight lead over incumbent, with Shiite parties also doing better than expected.(AFP)

THAI PROTESTERS HURL GALLONS OF BLOOD AT PRIME MINISTER’S HOUSE Stakes raised on fourth day of protests outside posh Bangkok residence of PM Abhisit Vejajjiva, with demonstrators demanding  new elections. (BBC video/text)

POPE SPEAKS UP ON SEX ABUSE CRISIS AT WEDNESDAY APPEARANCE Benedict XVI uses weekly General Audience to break silence on latest revelations, saying he hopes upcoming pastoral letter on priest sex abuse in Ireland will “help repentance, healing and renewal.” (Reuters)

US PRISON POPULATION DROPS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1972 The total number of state prisoners across the United States has declined for the first time in nearly four decades, according to a new Pew Center survey. As of Jan. 1, there were 1,403,091 people in state prisons, 5,739 fewer than January 2009. (AP)

AS US AND ISRAELI DIPLOMATS SCRAMBLE TO PATCH OVER TENSIONS, CLAMP DOWN ON WEST BANK EASED Israeli lifts a five-day closure on the West Bank following heavy clashes with Palestinian protesters and moves by both Washington and Jerusalem to cool simmering tensions over announcement of new housing in East Jerusalem during VP Biden’s recent visit to region. (Ha’aretz/AP)

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