Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days
March 11th, 2012
08:41 PM ET

Ahead of the curve: The next 7 days

Welcome to the second full week of March. If you are in any U.S. state besides Arizona and Hawaii and have a timepiece that isn't a cell phone, did you remember to move it forward by an hour today?

Here is a look at some of the stories that CNN plans to follow this week:

Gingrich looks to energize campaign in the South

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is hoping to boost his flagging campaign with contests Tuesday in two states near his native Georgia. Mississippi and Alabama hold their GOP presidential primaries on Tuesday. Hawaii also holds its caucuses. The contests come after a week in which the two candidates ahead of Gingrich nationwide did well for themselves, with Mitt Romney bolstering his front-runner status with six Super Tuesday victories and wins in the Pacific islands, and Rick Santorum grabbing three Super Tuesday wins plus Kansas on Saturday.

Gingrich has stressed the importance of winning in the South, where he polls well, and he has been ahead in Mississippi, according to a recent poll of likely primary voters. The poll showed Gingrich with 35% support in Mississippi, followed by Romney with 31%,  Santorum with 20% and Ron Paul with 7%.

According to a CNN estimate Saturday, Romney had 458 delegates, compared with 203 for Santorum, 118 for Gingrich and 66 for Paul. A candidate needs 1,144 delegates at the Republican convention this summer to secure the nomination to face President Barack Obama in November.

Soldier's attack on Afghan civilians under investigation, NATO says

NATO officials are investigating what the Afghanistan government says was a U.S. soldier's attack that killed 16 Afghan civilians in their homes Sunday.

The soldier, Afghan officials said, went from house to house in two villages in eastern Afghanistan and killed the 16, including nine children and three women. NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed that a soldier had gone off base and fired on civilians before turning himself in but did not say how many victims there had been.

ISAF commander Gen. John Allen said the "deeply appalling incident in no way represents the values of ISAF and coalition troops or the abiding respect we feel for the Afghan people."

The incident looks likely to inflame tensions between foreign troops and Afghan civilians, many of whom were enraged by the burning of Qurans by American troops last month.

New round of rocket attacks, airstrikes in Israel and Gaza

Israel and Gaza appear to be in a new cycle of attacks and counterattacks. Israel launched a string of airstrikes against targets in Gaza over the weekend, which Israel says are a response to more than 100 rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel since Friday.

The airstrikes have killed at least 18 people and injured at least 35 others in Gaza, Palestinian medical sources said. Three of those killed were civilians, and the rest were militants, according to a Palestinian source.

The rocket attacks on Israel have wounded eight Israelis, and 500,000 have been forced into shelters, Israeli military and emergency services said.

One of the Israeli airstrikes targeted a suspected terrorist moments before he fired a rocket at the city of Ashdod, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested Sunday that the new cycle of attacks  resulted from a successful Israeli strike on " an arch-terrorist who organized many attacks against the state of Israel." Two people were killed in that strike - Zuhair al-Qaisy, secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, and Mahmoud Ahmad Al-Hanini, a Hamas military leader.

Kofi Annan presses for diplomatic solution in Syria

The U.N. special envoy to Syria, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, plans to meet officials in Turkey and Saudi Arabia this week after meeting over the weekend with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regarding violence in that country.

Annan is pressing for a diplomatic solution to an uprising and the Syrian government's yearlong crackdown, which opposition groups say has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

On Saturday, Annan proposed a cease-fire, the release of detainees, the allowance of agencies to deliver aid and a start to an inclusive political dialogue that would "address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the people." The meetings Saturday and Sunday between al-Assad and Annan was the first time in Syria's yearlong crisis that al-Assad met with such a high-level diplomat.

But the Syrian president quashed the possibility of negotiating with the opposition anytime soon. Syrian state-run media said al-Assad told Annan that he was ready to find a solution, but that such an effort would first require a look at reality on the ground and not rely on what "is promoted by some regional and international countries to distort the facts and give a picture contrary to what Syria is undergoing."

Qatar's prime minister on Saturday called for foreign military intervention in Syria to stop the violence. Annan, though, has distanced himself from such a step, as have some Syrian opposition members.

European finance ministers could OK Greece bailout

Euro-area finance ministers are expected to meet on Monday in Brussels, where they could finalize a second €130 billion bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, CNNMoney reports.

Last week creditors agreed to a plan to restructure Greek government bonds and reduce its debt load by by more than €100 billion , meaning Greece cleared its final hurdle to qualify for the bailout program.  Investors who own Greek bonds could now see losses of up to 75%, but not doing the agreement could have left Greece facing default, putting its financial future and possibly that of the euro zone at great risk.

The IMF also is expected to decide on whether to OK its share of the bailout next week. Greece, the nation at the center of Europe's debt crisis, has been struggling with an unsustainable level of debt and an economy that has been in recession for years,  CNNMoney's Ben Rooney writes. Under its second bailout program, Greece has agreed to implement austerity measures and broader reforms to make its economy more competitive.

Ready for NCAA tourney? British prime minister is

After the 68-team NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket is released Sunday night, one world leader outside the United States who may take note is British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron, who is visiting the United States this week and will attend a state dinner at the White House on Wednesday, will accompany President Barack Obama to a first-round tournament game in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday.

"The president and the prime minister look forward to a great game between some of our nation’s finest collegiate athletes," a White House official said last week.

Your A to Z guide to March Madness

Take the Bracket Challenge

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Filed under: Ahead of the curve
March 11th, 2012
03:58 AM ET

Suicide attack at funeral kills at least 11 in Pakistan

A suicide bomber targeted a funeral in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 30 others, officials said.

The blast took place just outside Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said city police official Kalam Khan.

While no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities believe the target may have been members of the Awami National Party.

Khushdil Khan, a party member who is the deputy speaker of the provincial assembly, had gone to the funeral for a local woman. But he left before the attack occurred, police said.

The Awami National Party, which is part of the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's Pakistan Peoples Party, is often targeted by the Taliban.

In February, an explosion outside a political rally in northwest Pakistan killed five people and wounded 10, officials said.

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Filed under: Pakistan • World
March 11th, 2012
03:33 AM ET

Annan to meet again with Syrian president in hopes of agreement

After laying out plans aimed at halting the bloodshed in Syria, Kofi Annan, the special U.N. envoy to the country, will meet again with President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday in hopes of getting answers to his proposals.

In what he described as a candid and comprehensive discussion, Annan met with al-Assad on Saturday about a cease-fire, the release of detainees and allowing unfettered access to agencies like the Red Cross to deliver much needed aid, a U.N. statement said.

But while Annan waited for answers in Damascus, fresh violence erupted once again in cities across the country.

Clashes broke out between the Syrian army and rebel fighters in the Damascus suburbs and Aleppo, said the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists.

And in a phone call with a Binish town elder, a major general in al-Assad's military demanded the people of Binish hand over weapons used by defected soldiers and the rebel Free Syrian Army within 24 hours - or the town will be bombed and stormed early Monday morning, according to the Binish Coordination Committee, part of the LCC.

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Filed under: Arab Spring • Syria • World
March 11th, 2012
01:44 AM ET

ISAF: U.S. service member detained for shooting at Afghans

A U.S. service member was detained Sunday after he shot at Afghan civilians in Kandahar province, the NATO-led coalition said.

Capt. Justin Brockhoff with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the incident took place off base and wounded "multiple" civilians.

The injured Afghans were being treated in ISAF facilities.

Brockhoff said officials do not yet have a motive for the shooting, which is under investigation by both NATO and Afghan officials.

"This is a deeply regrettable incident and we extend our thoughts and concerns to the families involved," a statement from ISAF said.

Kandahar has been one of the areas that has seen protests and deadly violence since news emerged late last month that U.S. troops mistakenly burned Qurans and other religious materials.

Civilian casualties as a result of action by the NATO-led international coalition have long caused anger in Afghanistan, adding pressure on international forces to withdraw.

The international force has said avoiding civilian casualties is a high priority.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • U.S. • World
March 11th, 2012
01:09 AM ET

Officials: Latest Israeli airstrike in Gaza bring death toll to 17

The latest Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed a 12-year-old boy Sunday, bringing the death toll to 17 from two days of bombing, Palestinian medical sources said.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the latest bombing, which also left four others wounded, according to the Palestinian sources.

But the military, on its website, said the airstrikes are a response to more than 130 rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.

The airstrikes began Friday afternoon.

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Filed under: Israel • World
March 11th, 2012
12:48 AM ET

Prayers, tears as Japan marks 1 year since massive earthquake

apan gathered Sunday amid tears, prayers and a moment of silence to mark one year since a massive earthquake and tsunami killed thousands and triggered a nuclear crisis.

Throngs nationwide observed a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. local time (12:46 a.m. ET), the exact time the earth shook on March 11, 2011.

The 9.0-magnitude quake literally shifted the earth's axis and unleashed a wall of water that swept away lives, homes and sent millions of people fleeing for higher ground.

Nearly 16,000 people died and 3,000 others remain missing.

Later Sunday, citizens will continue to mark the anniversary across the country, with a main ceremony at the New National Theatre in Tokyo. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to attend and offer remarks.

He recently addressed rebuilding efforts, which represent Japan's greatest challenge since the end of World War II. Total damage is estimated at about 25 million yen, or roughly $300 billion so far.

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Filed under: Japan • World