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Tense teamwork in Zimbabwe

President Robert Mugabe, left, of Zimbabwe swore in his longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister Wednesday, cracking his nearly three-decade stranglehold on power. Tsvangirai, right, has been beaten and was once nearly thrown from a 10th floor window by suspected government thugs. Mugabe conceded the men must work together to rescue Zimbabwe from economic and humanitarian disaster. A glance at the crises they face:

HEALTH: Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic is blamed on the inability of Mugabe's cash-strapped government to maintain sanitation infrastructure and keep hospitals running. The U.N. says its cholera toll of more than 3,500 since August is probably low. Aid agencies say others are dying of AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

EDUCATION: Zimbabwe's schools under Mugabe, a former teacher, had once been the pride of the region. The British charity Save the Children estimates only two out of 10 Zimbabwean children got to school last year because many poor families are forced to send children out to find work or food instead.

HUNGER: The U.N. food program says 7 million Zimbabweans — as much as 80 percent of the population — need food aid. Unemployment and spiraling prices have put food out of the reach of many Zimbabweans. Agriculture production has plummeted since Mugabe's often violent land reform campaign in 2000.

INFLATION: Zimbabwe has the world's highest official inflation, at more than 230 million percent. The central bank at first tried to cope by printing more and more money in ever increasing denominations. Last month, it admitted defeat and allowed business to be done legally in foreign currency.

Plenty of people to process passports

The State Department isn't sweating a surge of applications with only four months left before U.S. citizens will be required to have a passport to re-enter the country from Canada and Mexico. Since the summer of 2007, when wait times doubled to 10-12 weeks for most passports, the agency has accelerated its hiring and expansion efforts to meet demand. By October that year, wait times were cut in half, and the current wait is about four weeks. "We can handle as many as 30 million passports (a year) and we're not seeing anywhere near that demand," said Brenda Sprague of the office. After passport applications surged to 18.5 million in 2007 — up from 12 million in 2006 and 10.4 million in 2005 — they dipped in 2008 to 16 million. This year, officials expect 12 million. Arizona Daily Star

Apply online to work for queen

British subjects who want to work for Queen Elizabeth II can now apply for jobs at Buckingham Palace at her royal Web site. Openings are already posted online — there are trainee butler and housekeeping assistant openings — the new site will have more about what it's like to work at the royal household, including information about the social side to serving the queen. The very purple site,, includes news, videos and photos of the royal family.

Too many jurors spoil Texas trial

Texas District Judge Mark Kent Ellis declared a mistrial in a murder trial after an extra juror was allowed to deliberate. Ellis said the 13th juror was an outside influence, even though she sat through the trial. "I've never seen anything like this," Ellis said. "The jurors seemed pretty upset, but there's no way to unring that bell." A substitute bailiff would not let the alternate juror leave until she filed paperwork but never brought the paperwork. The judge blamed the bailiff. "I told him I never want to see him in my courtroom again."

Tense teamwork in Zimbabwe 02/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 9:16pm]
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