Must-Reads from Around the World, July 16, 2012

After meeting the generals in Egypt, Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel; Poland wants to frack itself; are women in North Korea now wearing shorter skirts?

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KCNA / Reuters

North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un visits the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su 105 Guards Tank Division of the Korean People's Army in Pyongyang in a picture released by KCNA on Jan. 1, 2012

North Korean Hemlines — Speculation on what’s going on in North Korea is usually short on information and long on guesswork (for example, Kim Jong Un‘s top military official, Ri Yong Ho, was removed from all posts due to illness, state media said Monday in a shock announcement). Now observers of one of the world’s most secretive countries are looking at the length of hemlines to gauge the mindset of North Korean leadership, reports the New York Times. Some North Korea experts believe the appearance of shorter skirts along with performances with Disney characters might “indicate some rethinking of the North’s attitudes toward the West.” Others point out that changing fashion trends in the reclusive country are not omens of potential reform but an indication of “clash and compromise between emerging market forces and the regime’s attempt to turn back the clock.”

Island StandoffChina‘s escalating dispute with the Philippines over maritime boundaries has cost the island nation more than 200,000 Chinese tourists. Al Jazeera reports that the Chinese government ordered tour companies to suspend all trips to Boracay, a popular Philippine beach destination and a major driver of the country’s tourism economy. Fortunately for the Philippines, the number of vacationers from Russia, Taiwan and South Korea has nearly doubled over the past five years.

Energy Independence — In a bid to gain energy independence from Russia, Poland is trying to unlock huge deposits of natural gas with hydraulic fracturing, a move that is exciting officials and upsetting environmentalists, writes the Los Angeles Times. Hydraulic fracturing, which involves shooting a combination of chemical solutions and sand into the surface to open and release the gas, could help Poland exploit up to 768 billion cubic meters of natural gas — enough to meet the nation’s energy needs for at least the next 50 years. But despite the promise of energy independence, the lack of industry support services and infrastructure could make the project a long shot.

Supporting Syria — The BBC examines why Russia continues to back Bashar Assad, despite warnings by the U.N. that Syria has descended into civil war. “By standing up for Damascus, the Kremlin is telling the world that neither the U.N., nor any other body or group of countries has the right to decide who should or should not govern a sovereign state,” Konstantin von Eggert, explained political commentator for Kommersant FM radio in Moscow.

Clinton in Israel — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting with top Israeli officials, the AP states, and spoke about the need to stop the violence in Syria in addition to discussing Iran’s potential production of nuclear weapons. The trip follows her visit to Egypt over the weekend. “At the top of it (her agenda) will be her impressions and assessment of the last two days that she spent in Egypt,” a senior U.S. official anonymously told reporters. Egypt was the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel in 1979, but there are concerns whether this treaty will be abandoned following the election of President Mohamed Morsy of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

Basque Reconciliation — The New York Times interviews Iñaki García Arrizabalaga, who agreed to meet with a repentant Basque terrorist convicted of numerous assignations, despite his own father being killed by members of ETA, the armed Basque separatist movement, in 1980. Their encounter was “one of about a dozen similar meetings in the past year pairing the family members of victims with convicted terrorists,” provoking debate in Spain as to whether former members of ETA, responsible for over 800 deaths in four decades, deserve a second chance.