US president George W. Bush gives a ride in a golf cart to British prime minister Gordon Brown at the Presidential retreat, Camp David. Photograph: Larry Downing/Reuters The White House under George Bush reportedly told Tony Blair it harboured "grave doubts" about Gordon Brown's suitability to be prime minister.

The concerns about Brown, whose relations with Bush were stilted when he eventually became prime minister, arose from a difficult meeting with Condoleezza Rice.

A fire fighter attempts to extinguish a forest fire near the village of Dolginino in the Ryazan region, some 180 km (111 miles) southeast of Moscow, Wednesday,Aug. 4, 2010. Over the last 24 hours, firefighters have extinguished 293 fires, but 403 others have been spotted while more than 500 have continued to rage over large swathes of countryside, some of them out of control, the Emergencies Ministry said.

Hundreds of wildfires that has swept western Russia and cloaked Moscow in suffocating smog has caused billions of dollars in damage, a newspaper said Tuesday.

The business daily Kommersant said the damage from the fires was expected to amount to about $15 billion — or about one percent of the country's gross domestic product. The government has yet to release any damage estimates.

President Obama fielded questions this week at a Forum With Young African Leaders, held at the White House. ( The New York Times - Doug Mills)

President Obama convened a forum this week to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of 17 African nations, but he did not invite a single African leader to help him do so. Was this, as the African news media and independent commentators see it, an expression of distaste for abusive rulers? Was it an extension of Mr. Obama’s own conviction — already enunciated — that bad government is at the heart of the continent’s woes and that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”?

Shiite Muslims gather at a shrine in Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, to mark Shabaniyah, Monday, July 26, 2010. Two car bombs  targeting Shiite pilgrims during a religious festival in the holy city of Karbala killed scores on Monday, Iraqi police and hospital officials said. The pilgrims were on their way to Karbala to take part in an important religious holiday, known as Shabaniyah, that attracts devout Shiites from around the country. (AP Photo/ Ahmed al-Husseini)

A U.S. audit has found that the Pentagon cannot account for over 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraq reconstruction money, spotlighting Iraqi complaints that there is little to show for the massive funds pumped into their cash-strapped, war-ravaged nation.

The $8.7 billion in question was Iraqi money managed by the Pentagon, not part of the $53 billion that Congress has allocated for rebuilding. It's cash that Iraq, which relies on volatile oil revenues to fuel its spending, can ill afford to lose.

China is now king of the world in energy consumption, surpassing the U.S. years ahead of forecasts in a milestone that left the Asian giant immediately rejecting its new crown.

Sensitive to its status as the world's biggest polluter, China has long pointed fingers at developed nations in climate change talks and resists any label that could increase international pressure for it to take a larger role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal government Monday allowed BP to keep the cap shut tight on its busted Gulf of Mexico oil well for another day despite a seep in the sea floor after the company promised to watch closely for signs of new leaks underground.

The Obama administration's point man for the spill, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said early Monday that government scientists had gotten the answers they wanted about how BP is monitoring the seabed around the mile-deep well, which has stopped gushing oil into the water since the experimental cap was closed Thursday.

A combination photo shows the BP oil leak in images taken from BP live video on May 26, 2010 (top L), June 1, 2010 (top R), July 13, 2010 and on July 15, 2010 (bottom R) after the leak was contained. Credit: REUTERS/BP/Handout

The cap on BP Plc's stricken Gulf of Mexico oil well appeared to hold on Friday, but officials intensified monitoring after a critical test showed pressure rising slower than they hoped.

BP began pressure tests on the well after choking it off on Thursday for the first time since the April 20 rig explosion that triggered the leak. Underwater robots scanned the sea floor for signs the undersea well was damaged.

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