Must-Reads from Around the World

On deck for Monday: North Korea's apparent progress is only skin deep, criminal activity in Latin America takes a heavy toll on the environment, and the Pakistani girl who was recently shot by the Taliban has been sent to Britain for specialist hospital care

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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 Progress — The Los Angeles Times reports that, despite the latest signs of material progress — new construction, fashion items, and cellphones — in North Korea, the average citizen still struggles to get enough to eat every day. North Koreans living across the border in China told the Times that the changes implemented by young leader Kim Jong-un since last December “are superficial and have done little to ease the daily task of just staying alive.” The privilege enjoyed by the country’s elite in the capital Pyongyang is evident in photos of new high-rise apartment buildings and women wearing miniskirts, but it’s “still common for people to die of starvation, albeit not at the same rate as during the famine of the 1990s,” noted the Times.

Global Economy — Bloomberg notes that “the global economy is facing its third major brake on expansion in five years as emerging markets slow from China to Brazil.”Although emerging economies helped the world get through the recession induced by the U.S. mortgage meltdown in 2009, their reliability as a growth engine is waning as the European debt crisis continues. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that emerging economies will grow at an average of 5.8% from 2009 to 2016, which is nearly two percentage points lower than the five years leading up to 2009.
Organized Crime — A new report indicates that organized crime in Latin America is taking a heavy toll on the environment, writes the Christian Science Monitor. The report, published by Yale Environment 360, notes that gangs in the region, including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico are degrading the environment through activities, such as illegal logging and the trafficking of rare animals. According to CSM, “this degradation is often taking place in areas with little state presence and where criminal gangs operate a de facto form of governance.”

Portuguese Protests – Portugal has joined Spain and Greece in protesting against austerity cuts, reports Aljazeera. “Portugal has had enough of being robbed and humiliated” read one of the banners at this weekend’s demonstration, held in response to the current Prime Minister’s decision to push through public spending cuts. Portuguese trade unions are planning a general strike for November 14, said the New York Times. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that Portugal, with a record unemployment rate of 15%, will remain in recession through next year. Spanish protesters also took to the streets of Madrid on Saturday with a recent opinion poll showing that 70% of Spaniards disapprove of Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Helping Hand – The young Pakistani schoolgirl who was recently shot by the Taliban has been sent to Britain for specialist hospital care, writes the New York Times. Fourteen year-old Malala Yousafzai will receive treatment for the fracture to her skull, which resulted from a bullet that passed through her head. The daughter of a schoolmaster had become known for her advocacy of education and children’s rights in the face of Taliban threats. The Pakistani military have reported that she’s in a fragile condition but was able to travel abroad while “her condition was optimal and before any unforeseen complications had set in.”

Scottish Independence – From Monday the people of Scotland will have 100 weeks to make the “most important political decision in 300 years,” writes The Guardian. The British Prime Minister David Cameron flies to Edinburgh to settle the terms with Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister, of the one-question referendum that will decide the future of Scotland from 2014. “The agreement will see Scotland take an important step toward independence and the means to create a fairer and more prosperous Scotland,” explained Salmond. “I look forward to working positively for a yes vote in 2014.”

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