Must-Reads from Around the World

The Netherlands has the highest mortgage debt rate in Europe, the U.S. could soon become the world's top oil producer, and Syria agrees to a ceasefire during Eid.

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Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

An anti-Putin symbol is seen on an activist's t-shirt during an anti-government protest in Moscow June 12, 2012

Treason Laws — Lawmakers in Russia voted to broaden the definition of high treason and espionage to include moves against Russia’s “constitutional order, sovereignty, and territorial and state integrity,” reports the BBC. Critics said such a wide definition of high treason in the new bill means any Russian citizen sharing information with foreigners or international organizations could be accused of treason. The new bill, according to the BBC, is expected to be passed swiftly by the Russian parliament’s upper house.

Dutch Debt — The Netherlands has the highest rate of mortgage debt in Europe because of generous tax breaks and subprime-style lending practices, notes Bloomberg Businessweek. The mortgage debt rate now amounts to 107% of the country’s gross domestic product, which is more than double the European average of 50%. According to Businessweek, the debt load is decreasing consumer spending and thereby straining the economy, which is forecast to contract half a percent this year.

Oil Production — The United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s number one oil producer, reports the Associated Press. High oil prices and new drilling methods, according to the AP, are behind the rise of U.S. production of crude and other liquid hydrocarbons, which is set to increase by 7% this year to an average of 10.9 million barrels every day. The Energy Department forecasts that U.S. oil production in 2013 will hit a record-high of 11.4 million barrels per day–just below Saudi Arabia’s output of 11.6 million barrels.

Holiday Ceasefire – The Syrian government has agreed to a ceasefire with rebels during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, Reuters reports. U.N. Special Envoy to the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, announced the development at a news conference in Cairo Wednesday.  It is not clear whether the rebels are going to commit to a truce, the BBC adds, noting that “a previous ceasefire arrangement in April collapsed within days with both sides accusing the other of breaking it.” The holiday starts on Thursday and lasts for between 3 to 4 days, and Brahimi did not pin down specifics regarding the precise time period for the truce.

Holocaust Memorial – German Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled a memorial to Roma (Gypsy) Nazi Holocaust victims, reports the BBC. The circular pool of water pays tribute to between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma that were executed during World War II, but was met with years of delays and disputes over “the memorial’s design and its cost.” Merkel stressed that it was “very important” that the Germans have a “culture of remembrance.”

Threat Downgrade – The threat level from republican terrorist groups such as the new IRA has been downgraded by Britain’s home office from “substantial” to “moderate,” the Guardian reports. The reduction follows a decrease in terror attacks within Northern Ireland, but officials said that the threat level within Northern Ireland still remained “severe.”  The decision to lower the threat level was made by British intelligence agency MI5, according to the BBC.