Must-Reads from Around the World: March 21, 2012

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Police surround a property during an operation to arrest 24-year-old Mohammed Merah, the man suspected of killing seven victims including three children in separate gun attacks on March 21, 2012 in Toulouse, France

Suspect Cornered – An hours-long stand-off between French police and the 24-year-old man suspected of Monday’s shootings at a Jewish school in Toulouse continues. Reuters reports that police tracked the suspect to an apartment building in the southwestern city in the early hours of Wednesday. Three officers have been wounded by the gunman, who, according to French Interior Minster Claude Guéant, said he would surrender at some point in the afternoon. Guéant told reporters that the man, identified as Mohammed Merah, has been tracked by French intelligence for “several years,” the BBC reports.  Guéant also told reporters the man claims he is linked to al-Qaeda and wanted to take revenge for “the Palestinian children.”

China Economy – China’s Global Times is reporting the biggest hike of gasoline and diesel prices in the country in nearly three years, pushing up living and production costs and potentially hampering government policies aimed at curbing inflation and maintaining growth. Meanwhile, the People’s Daily writes that foreign experts at the ‘China Development Forum 2012′ predict the country’s economy will not suffer a hard landing.

Press Freedom – German magazine Der Spiegel examines Turkey’s much-maligned treatment of journalists critical of the Erdogan government, who have been variously repressed and jailed on terrorism charges. It notes the recent release from custody of some prominent reporters “may signal change, but more than 100 journalists are still imprisoned in the country, more than in China or Iran.”

Russian Purge – The Washington Post reveals the launch of a criminal investigation against a prominent blogger in Russia for inciting riots with comments on demonstrations against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. It notes the move against Arkady Babchenko raises “fears that the authorities intend to restrict the Internet, where the protest movement was inspired and organized”—and which has remained largely uncensored to date.

Vatican Troubles – The Telegraph reports JP Morgan Chase will close an account belonging to the Vatican following repeated denials for information about payments into its Institute for Works of Religion account. Two weeks ago, the U.S. State Department placed the Vatican on watchlist of major money-laundering countries. In a separate scandal, the Roman Catholic church in the Netherlands is also accused of forcing young men to be castrated over five decades ago. The New York Times looks at the ongoing inquiry into the Dutch church after 2,000 people complained of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy members.

Depression  - A suicide note set to automatically post to a Twitter-like Chinese microblogging service has stirred public debate about depression. The Atlantic explores the  fallout of mirco-blogged suicide notes and the broader issue of mental health problems in China. China Daily reports that the post was automatically scheduled to go out 12 hours after the girl’s death.

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