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March 7, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Who’s in the News

Super Tuesday primaries: Mitt Romney wins Ohio and 5 more, but Rick Santorum hangs tough (Alexander Burns, Politico)

A Super Tuesday primary night that was supposed to bring clarity to the Republican nomination fight instead left things nearly as muddled as ever, as the 10 states voting across the country scattered every which way and the most important battleground, Ohio, handed Mitt Romney only the narrowest of victories.  Romney entered the day’s contests tantalizingly close to a secure hold on the GOP nomination, and still managed to run up his lead in the delegate count. Winning the Buckeye State, however barely, gives Romney a symbolic boost by putting the key general-election state in his column. Romney and his top opponents, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, divided up the primary and caucus states voting. Romney took four states he was expected to win: his home state of Massachusetts, nearby Vermont, Idaho and also Virginia, where Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich failed to make the ballot.  Santorum has taken three contests, winning the Tennessee and Oklahoma primaries and the North Dakota caucuses. Gingrich recorded a big win in Georgia, the state he once represented in Congress, and nowhere else.

Smart Power

Inspiring a Generation of Women to Fight Neglected Tropical Diseases (Dr. Peter Hotez, The Huffington Post)

It’s not easy to introduce neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, to first time audiences. The truth is they may be the most important diseases of girls and women you have never heard of. Few people in the U.S. know about female genital schistosomiasis, hookworm, Chagas disease, trachoma, river blindness or elephantiasis. But taken together, these diseases have a higher health burden than malaria and tuberculosis, and rival that of HIV/AIDS.  Almost every woman or girl living on less than $1.25 (USD) a day in Africa, Asia and the Americas — one half of the world’s “bottom billion” — is infected by one or more NTD. But the most shocking aspect of NTDs isn’t the devastation they can cause to poor communities; it’s the affordability of its solution. It often only costs 50 cents, on average, to treat and protect one person against all seven major NTDs for an entire year. By controlling and eliminating these infections, we can offer one of the best shots for changing the future for those women and girls who live in such abject poverty.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Obama administration moves to aid Syrian opposition (Josh Rogin, The Cable)

The Obama administration is moving to provide direct assistance to the internal opposition in Syria for the first time, marking a shift in U.S. policy toward a more aggressive plan to help oust President Bashar al-Assad.   Last week, a group of senior Obama administration officials met to finalize a package of options for aiding both the internal and external Syrian opposition, to include providing direct humanitarian and communications assistance to the Syrian opposition, two administration officials confirmed to The Cable. This meeting of what’s known as the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council set forth a new and assertive strategy for expanding U.S. engagement with Syrian activists and providing them with the means to organize themselves, but stops short of providing any direct military assistance to the armed opposition.  For now, riskier options, such as creating a no-fly zone in Syria, using U.S. military force there, or engaging directly with the Free Syrian Army, are all still off the table. But the administration has decided not to oppose, either in public or in private, the arming of the rebels by other countries, the officials said.

After democracy-group crisis, U.S. seeking reliable partner in new Egypt (Leila Fadel, The Washington Post)

American officials say the negotiated end to a crisis involving pro-democracy workers has only underscored what remains a major obstacle in U.S.-Egyptian relations: the absence of a reliable partner following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.  “One of our problems is we don’t really have an Egyptian government to have a conversation with,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in recent testimony to Congress, in the midst of a diplomatic effort that ended last week when Americans under criminal investigation were whisked out of Egypt. “And I keep reminding myself of that, because it is an uncertain situation for all the different players.”  U.S. officials hope the players will change after Egyptians elect a new president this summer. But they also recognize that they will be dealing with different and unknown centers of power, and they say their primary goal must be to build and strengthen a relationship with Egypt’s new leaders as the country makes a painful and bumpy transition to what many hope will be democracy.