South American Support — Following Ecuador’s granting of political asylum to Julian Assange, the BBC reports that the Union of South American Nations has agreed to support its member state “in the face of the threat” to its London embassy, where Assange has been residing since June. The BBC’s Will Grant described the move as a “symbolic but important show of unity in a region which considers the UK government’s approach over Mr Assange to have been colonialist and threatening.”
Koran Controversy – Pakistan‘s Dawn reports on the arrest of an 11-year-old Christian girl under the country’s notorious blasphemy laws after she was accused by neighbors of burning sacred Islamic texts. “[The case] has broken the silence of the ruling PPP which has been quiet on the issue over the past year since the assassination of two of its leaders, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, for suggesting some changes in the controversial blasphemy law,” it added.
Noisy Neighbors – The Times of India reveals controversy over land in the heart of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, reportedly promised to the Indian high commission but instead set to be sold to a Chinese state-owned aviation company. “While the sale of a plot to the Chinese may seem innocuous, the fact that it may come at the expense of India is likely to further exacerbate India’s growing concerns over Beijing successfully expanding its base in Sri Lanka,” it wrote.
Beauty Business – Thailand’s The Nation newspaper examines the country’s surging cosmetic surgery industry — now worth an estimated $634.4 million a year — and its expansion into southeast Asian neighbors. “A drastic change in the public’s perception of cosmetic surgery over the past ten years has created a huge demand among Thai consumers, who contribute most of the Bt20 billion in income that surgery clinics enjoy each year,” it said.
Still No President – As Somalia’s presidential election is further delayed, despite members of a new parliament being sworn in, Reuters analyzes the “several new faces” returning home “to try and lead the country out of two decades of lawlessness and violence at the hands of gun-toting militias, fanatical Islamist militants and rapacious pirates.” Yusuf Garaad, who left his job as head of the BBC Somali Service in London to run for the presidency, said: “I watched for so long from afar, not doing anything but reporting and pretending it was not up to me to do something.”
Assad Appearance – President Bashar Assad visited a mosque in the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, the Daily Telegraph writes, his first public appearance since four of his senior security officials were killed in a bomb explosion last month. He was accompanied by new prime minister, Wael al-Halki, the replacement to Riyad Hijab, who defected to Jordan and foreign minister, Walid Muallem, but not vice-president, Farouq al-Sharaa, heightening speculation that he attempted, but failed, to defect from Assad’s regime.