Must-Reads from Around the World, July 27, 2012

Today's picks include the rise of a long-dead Italian leader and the archetypical vixen.

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China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai (R) and his wife Gu Kailai stand at a mourning held for his father Bo Yibo, former vice-chairman of the Central Advisory Commission of the Communist Party of China, in Beijing in this January 17, 2007 file photo.

Blame the Wife — The New York Times explains one element of the cultural history underlying the Chinese government’s formally charging Gu Kailai with the murder of the British businessman Neil Heywood. “The Chinese government,” the NYT writes, “almost certainly intentionally, has placed the larger-than-life Ms. Gu into a familiar Chinese framework: the conniving, bloodthirsty vixen whose hunger for money derailed her husband’s promising career.” As hyper-specific as this archetype may seem, there is actually considerable evidence in recent history — the Times points to Madame Mao and the Empress Dowager Cixi — of women taking the fall for systemic corruptions. If found guilty for her crime, Gu could face the death penalty.

The Olympics’ neighbor — “Everyone here hates the Olympics,” reads the spray-painted wall of a former peanut factory just outside of the 2012 Olympic stadium. Reuters reports on the backlash against the upcoming games in London, where the residents of one of the city’s most riot-prone neighborhoods in East London have been promised a real economic benefit, but have seen only nuisance from the event. And as soldiers arrive with electric fences, the working-class East Enders are feeling squeezed out of the games: “I’ve been promised a job working at the Olympics as a security guard, they’ve done all the vetting, all the checks, and I am still waiting. I am one of the statistics, one of the victims,” said one young man.

Leader Rising — Giuseppe Garibaldi, a 19th Century general and founding father of modern Italy, is set to be exhumed from his Caprera tomb, the BBC reports. Garibaldi’s descendants are reportedly concerned that his grave was tampered with and no longer contains the late general’s remains, so Italian authorities granted permission to open his tomb on an island off the coast of Sardinia. Garibaldi’s dying wish was supposedly to have his remains cremated, so there may be some debate over whether to honor his request if his body is successfully located.

U.N. Chief Pleas — Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has “urged states to bridge differences ahead of Friday’s deadline for the draft of a new global agreement to control international arms sales,” the BBC writes. He told the negotiating nations, “We owe it to all the innocent civilians who have fallen victim to armed conflict and violence.” The U.N chief admitted that 30 days of talks in New York have yielded “very limited progress.” The U.S. has been hesitant about the international deal, opposing the stipulation to report ammunition exports in any text. Russia and China have also shown reservations, wanting restrictions to references to humanitarian law. All draft treaties require unanimous approval.

Iran Poised to Strike — “Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines,” Middle East experts have told the Washington Post. As global powers failed to settle their differences in nuclear talks in Russia earlier this month, Iran has renewed threats to shut down shipping in the oil-rich gulf region and warned that it would not hesitate to retaliate in the event of its nuclear facilities being attacked. Officials say that new systems have given Iranian commanders “new confidence that they could quickly damage or destroy U.S. ships if hostilities erupt.”
U.S. Aiding Rebels — As the U.S. said it fears the Assad regime is prepared to carrying out a massacre in Syria, Reuters reveals that President Obama is “moving cautiously toward greater support for Syrian rebels.” The White House has “crafted a presidential directive, called a “finding,” that would authorize greater covert assistance for the rebels, while still stopping short of arming them,” Reuters has learned. U.S. officials declined to comment on the findings as the document has a highly classified authorization for covert activity. It is not yet apparent whether it has been signed by Obama. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “I have to say that we are also increasing our efforts to assist the opposition.”