Must-Reads from Around the World, July 20, 2012

Today's picks include major economic reforms proposed by North Korean leader Kim Jon Un, the rejection of an appeal by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and U.N. Security Council members blaming each other for failing to come to an agreement on Syria.

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Pointing Fingers — After Thursday’s U.N. resolution for action in Syria was vetoed by China and Russia, the Security Council members are blaming each other for the failure — even those who voted ‘yes.’ While the Obama administration is now scrambling for other possible courses of action, a commentary in China’s state-run news agency Xinhua claims that it’s the West’s own fault: “Western diplomats rushed to point fingers at Russia and China after the resolution was defeated, but they have only themselves to blame for trying to force such an ill-considered draft through the Council,” it said.

Party at Your Own Risk — Indian partygoers are facing a series of obstacles to their vibrant nightlife scene as reported by the BBC and the Guardian. Firstly, attacks on women are becoming increasingly common as exemplified by a mob assault on a young woman in the northeastern city of Guwahati as she was leaving a bar. “You drink liquor!” the Guwahati mob yelled at the girl as they reportedly burnt her with cigarettes and attempted to strip off her clothing. Meanwhile, in Mumbai, the police are engaged in a heavy crackdown on nightlife — an initiative led by assistant police commissioner Vasant Dhoble who prowls the city streets armed with a hockey stick — which has seen foreign tourists falsely accused of being prostitutes and then paraded in front of TV cameras.

Decriminalized Success — When Portugal decriminalized the possession and use of all drugs in July 2001 many worried that the country would descend amid rising addiction. But after 11 years of this policy, the results are in, and the findings are startling. Reports suggest that the number of addicts has been halved since the drug laws were enacted, and drug related diseases (which include STDs and overdoses) have fallen by an even greater percentage.
Kim in Control – Reuters reveals that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms” after removing the top military general in the country opposed to change. An anonymous source, with close links to both Pyongyang and Beijing, said that a special bureau has been created by the North Korean cabinet to wrest control of its languishing economy from the military, who grew in power under the rule of Kim Jon Un’s father, Kim Jong Il. The proposed changes “could herald the most significant reforms by the North in decades.”

Appeal Rejected – “A court in China has rejected an appeal by Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei against a tax evasion fine,” the BBC writes. In 2011, he was given a fine by tax authorities worth 15 million yuan, the equivalent of $2.4 million, for tax evasion. However, his supporters argue that the fine was politically motivated, owing to his vocal criticisms of the Chinese government and his use of social media to air his views. After the court verdict was announced, he tweeted, “This country has once again proved to the world that law and justice don’t exist here.”
Israel Retaliating – Following the killing of five Israeli holidaymakers in a suicide bombing in Bulgaria, the Israeli government has promised to “exact a heavy price” on the perpetrators, the Independent reports, prompting “fears of a further escalation in the already high tensions with Iran,” as Islamic militant group Hezbollah has been blamed for the attack. Such sentiments do not appear to be echoed by the Israeli people. A “survey commissioned by Maariv newspaper found only 19% of Israelis would support the go-it-alone strikes threatened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative government,” states Reuters.
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