ALBANY, N.Y.: Instantly opening a rift among New York Democrats, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand - a little-known, pro-gun Democrat from a rural Republican district - won appointment yesterday to the Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Clinton. Gov. David Paterson announced his choice a day after presumed front-runner Caroline Kennedy - a woman with considerably more star power but less experience - mysteriously dropped out of contention. Gillibrand, at 42, will be the youngest member of the Senate and one of 17 women in the chamber. Before the governor even took the podium to introduce Gillibrand, anti-gun crusader Rep. Carolyn McCarthy said she would challenge Gillibrand in the Democratic primary next year or find someone who would. Gillibrand has a 100 percent voting record with the National Rifle Association.
Sen. Cardin to head Helsinki Commission
WASHINGTON: Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin is the new chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, which monitors human rights in countries of the former Soviet Union, it was announced yesterday. The Democratic lawmaker has been a member of the congressionally chartered bipartisan panel, officially known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, since 1993. He previously served as co-chairman, the second-ranking position. "I look forward to working with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she leads the effort to restore our nation's credibility in the area of human rights," Cardin said in a statement.
Kim Jong Il meets with Chinese envoy
SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea's reclusive leader turned up for talks with a senior Chinese envoy yesterday, making his first such appearance in nearly a half year in an apparent bid to show he is fit, despite reportedly having suffered a stroke in August. Kim Jong Il met with Communist Party official Wang Jiarui, toasting the representative from North Korea's main ally and saying his regime stands by its commitment to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, state-run media in both countries said. Wang is believed to be the first high-level outside official to have face-to-face contact with Kim since the North Korean leader fell out of the public eye amid speculation about his health. Analysts said the meeting - coming just days after President Barack Obama took office - might be a way for Kim to show the new U.S. leader that he is ready for further nuclear negotiations. Kim appeared thinner but otherwise healthy in photos of the meeting in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
Rwandan troops grab Congolese rebel leader
KINSHASA, Congo: In a stunning reversal of alliances, Rwandan troops captured Congo's most powerful rebel leader, a longtime ally who the Congolese government says was at the heart of years of war in the east, officials said yesterday. Congo applauded the surprise arrest, hoping it would herald a new era of peace and mark the end of the Central African nation's Tutsi rebellion. But few believe the country's problems are over, and many fear the unprecedented and unpopular deal with former enemy Rwanda is a risky gamble that could unleash more bloodshed. Rwanda detained Laurent Nkunda apparently as part of an agreement with Congo that opened the way for thousands of Rwandan soldiers to cross the border this week in a joint operation to hunt down Rwandan Hutu militiamen.