Smoking in Russia – Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev is calling for a ban on public smoking in his country by 2015, reports the New York Times. In a nation where nearly a third of the population smokes, Medevedev also called for banning cigarette ads and raising the sales tax on them. The Times noted that the former president’s “bid appeared to be aimed at reclaiming some political relevance and popular support, at a time when many of the initiatives he championed during his tenure as president have been rolled back under [current president] Vladimir Putin.”
Intervention in Mali – French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said an international military intervention to help fight Islamic militants from northern Mali will launch in a matter of weeks, according to VOA News. His announcement comes days after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that clears the way for the deployment of foreign troops to the Western African nation. Earlier this year, militant groups took control of northern Mali after a coup, destabilizing the country and prompting the interim government to request help from overseas.
Debt-holder Japan — The Financial Times reports that Japan closed in on China as the largest holder of U.S. government debt in August. Japan bought $5.3 billion in U.S. Treasury securities during August to raise its total holdings to $1.121 trillion, compared to China’s total holdings of $1.153 trillion. According to the Times, over the past year “Japan’s pace of buying has accelerated with its Treasury holdings from $907 billion, while China’s overall portfolio has dropped.”
U.S.-China Debates – As the Presidential election continues to focus on U.S. dependence on China, studies have come out that suggest the relationship may be less pronounced than President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney make it seem, the Washington Post reports. Taxpayers in the U.S. actually owe China 10 percent less than they did a year ago, and the Post said that “China is figuring less prominently than in the past.” This new information emerges as results from a recent Pew study finds that fewer people in China characterize ties with Washington as “one of cooperation,” than in years past, according to Reuters.
Restricting Food – An Israeli court has ordered the release of government research, which details the minimum caloric intake of Palestinians in Gaza in order to avoid malnutrition, the BBC reports. The United Nations and various non-governmental organizations have called Israel’s restriction tantamount to “collective punishment.” The study, according to the BBC, was commissioned in June 2007 after Israel “tightened its blockade of the territory after Hamas came to power.” Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, fought the Israeli ministry of defense in order to have the documents relesased. The report analyses restricted foods, how many trucks must be delivered to the area to make the “daily humanitarian portion,” and the calorie requirements of Palestinians.