PROGRESS IN IRAQ….Electing a speaker was only a small step for the Iraqi parliament, but this is a pretty big one:

Lawmakers put the finishing touches Tuesday on an agreement making Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani president and Shiite Adel Abdul-Mahdi and interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, his two vice presidents.

On Thursday, the 275 lawmakers elected Jan. 30 likely will name Shiite leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari prime minister, clearing the way for lawmakers to begin focusing their attention on writing a permanent constitution by their Aug. 15 deadline.

If, as this story suggests, they follow through on putting in place both a president and a prime minister, that’s very good news indeed.