HEADLINES -- May 19, 2011 at 7:25 AM ET
Strauss-Kahn Resigns as Head of IMF, al-Qaida Releases Bin Laden Recording
Dominique Strauss-Kahn released a statement late Wednesday saying he will resign from his post as head of the International Monetary Fund to fight allegations of sexual assault. Strauss-Kahn, who is being held at New York's Rikers Island, said he was leaving the IMF with "infinite sadness," but indicated that the move would allow him to devote his full energy to fighting the charges, which he denies, and would protect the organization from further damage.
Under Strauss-Kahn, the IMF had implemented large bailout packages in Europe. Amid a debt crisis, his arrest caused uncertainty for Europe's economy. Some, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, have indicated that the next leader should come from within Europe.
Strauss-Kahn's legal woes also cast doubt on a potential challenge to French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's election.
His attorneys are seeking bail to secure his release from Rikers Island, which a judge had initially denied for fears he could leave the country. His case is under consideration by a grand jury this week; the charges in the case carry a potential sentence of 25 years.
Al-Qaida Releases Purported Bin Laden Audio Tape
Al-Qaida released an audio tape it claims is from Osama bin Laden, recorded shortly before his death in a raid on his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In the 12-minute recording, the speaker refers to protests in the Arab world:
"My Muslim Umma (nation), we are monitoring with you this great historic event, and we join you with your joy and delight, so congratulations on your victories, and may God have mercy on your martyrs. May He cure your injured and grant the release of your prisoners...The light of the revolution sparked in Tunisia, and the nation felt the relief, the faces of the people got brightened, and the throats of the rulers got coarser, and the Jews got terrified because the coming of the promised day."
It is not clear when the tape was recorded. It addresses protests in Tunisia and Egypt but not in Libya.
(View our graphic, 'Al-Qaida Leaders: Dead or Wanted.')
Bombings Kill 27 in Kirkuk, Iraq
Two bombings at a police station in Kirkuk, Iraq, and a bomb placed on the road to a nearby hospital killed 27 people and injured 70. The first explosion caused police officers to exit the compound before the second blast. It was the worst attack in Kirkuk since February, when a suicide bomber targeted a Kurdish security facility.
Kirkuk, which is 180 miles north of Baghdad, has been plagued by tensions between its three largest ethnic groups, Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen. After the attack in February, Kurdish forces stepped up their presence, which inflamed concerns among other groups in the city.
U.S. forces still patrol in Kirkuk but are expected to withdraw from Iraq by the end of this year.
In Wake of Disaster, Japan's Economy Slides Into Recession
Japan's economy contracted by 3.7 percent, an annualized rate based on January-March, placing it in a recession just as it is struggling to recovery from the economic impact of the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The 0.9 percent drop in GDP during the January-March period, compared to the previous year, is projected over a year for the 3.7 percent decline. The damage was worse than forecasters had predicted.
Compounding pre-existing financial woes and the lingering effects of the global financial downturn, the earthquake and tsunami have dented consumer spending, production in key industries like automobile manufacturing, exports and other parts of the economy.
Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano sounded a note of optimism, saying he expects almost 1 percent GDP growth in the coming year and that the reconstruction efforts will fuel demand within the economy.