Giffords’ Condition Upgraded to Serious, Chinese President Calls for ‘Practical Cooperation’ Ahead of Visit

BY News Desk  January 17, 2011 at 8:29 AM EST

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ condition was upgraded to serious after her ventilator was removed. The congresswoman from Arizona has been breathing on her own and communicating by hand signals with her doctors. Giffords was shot in the head eight days ago in a shooting rampage at a Tucson meet and greet event. Several of the other victims have been released from the hospital.

Funeral services were held over the weekend for two more victims, Dory Stoddard, 76, who died while protecting his wife Mary from the shots, and Gabe Zimmerman, 30, Giffords’ director of community outreach.

The alleged shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, is being held on charges of murder, attempted murder, and attempted assassination.

Chinese President Calls for ‘Practical Cooperation’ Ahead of Visit

President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China
Presidents Obama and Hu Jintao at the Nuclear Security Summit in April. Photo by Ron Sachs/Pool-Getty Images.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, scheduled to meet with President Obama this week at the White House, said the two countries should search for “common ground” despite “differences and sensitive issues between us,” in a letter responding to questions from the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

His remarks come ahead of a visit where economic and security issues are likely to dominate the conversation, as currency and trade issues and regional uncertainties, especially with respect to North Korea, have been of growing concern. Human rights issues have been less prominent in recent years, but were inflamed when the Nobel Prize was awarded to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year sentence for challenging the government.

President Hu will participate in a full state dinner. During his last visit to the White House in 2006, President George W. Bush hosted a lunch.

Former Haitian Dictator Returns From Exile

After 25 years in exile, former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier made a surprise trip to the embattled country, raising speculation of his motives in the aftermath of a controversial and uncertain presidential vote. Duvalier, who assumed power from his father in 1971, was forced from power in a revolt amid charges of corruption.

Duvalier landed at the Port-au-Prince airport with his wife. He is expected to address reporters on Monday. Security was tight in the capital, but there were no reports of violence.

A runoff vote scheduled for the weekend was postponed. The original vote, in December, sparked riots and was rejected by a handful of the candidates. In January, Haiti marked the one year anniversary of a devastating 7-magnitude earthquake, and has been grappling with a massive outbreak of cholera.

Fresh Protests in Tunisia Ahead of New Government

Police used teargas to disperse demonstrators in Tunis ahead of an expected announcement of a deal between the party of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who left the country Friday after several weeks of increasingly violent protests, and opposition parties. The protesters want to see the former president’s party out of the government.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi assumed power after Ben Ali left for Saudi Arabia. He has been met with widespread skepticism, seen by many as a remnant of the old guard.

The state of emergency has remained in effect, with petrol shortages and swaths of the city in virtual lock-down mode.