News Buzz: Food Crisis, Dalai Lama, and More

The UN today offered its most serious assessment yet of the recent rises in global food costs.

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The United Nations today offered its most serious assessment yet of the recent rises in global food costs, calling the situation "a real global crisis," in the words of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "The United Nations is very much concerned, as are all other members of the international community," Ban said this morning at the U.N. offices in Vienna, Austria. "We must take immediate action in a concerted way all throughout the international community." Read more about the causes, political effects, and humanitarian consequences of the global food crisis at

A month after Chinese military officers were ordered to quell protests in Lhasa and elsewhere in the region, China now says it will meet with the Dalai Lama's personal representative to discuss a variety of religious and political topics. "In view of the requests repeatedly made by the Dalai side for resuming talks, the relevant department of the central government will have contact and consultation with Dalai's private representative in the coming days," the official Xinhua News Agency said, quoting an unidentified official. Xinhua gave no details on a time or place for the talks, or who they would involve. The agreement follows weeks of international pressure, with leaders from the United States, France, Australia and other countries calling for dialogue in advance of the Beijing Olympics.

President Bush this morning expressed support for the tax rebate checks that, starting Monday, will be mailed out to approximately 130 million American households. The rebates, ranging in value from $300 to $1,200, represent the core of a $168 billion "stimulus package" that was approved by the president and Congress in February. "This money is going to help Americans offset the high prices we're seeing at the gas pump, at the grocery store, and will also give our economy a boost to help us pull out of this economic slowdown," Bush said earlier today. Although surveys show that most Americans believe the country is in a recession, President Bush this week said the country is suffering from an economic "slowdown" not recession, which is technically defined as two quarters of negative economic growth.