Mekong River Dam — The Lao government’s latest push to build a massive Xayaburi dam in the Mekong River and exploit its water resources is raising tensions with its downstream neighbors Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, notes the Economist. Laos has been called to stick to an agreement made by the Mekong River Commission in December 2011 to wait for more scientific data on the downstream impacts of the dam, which could include the loss of fish catch and a wipeout of many Mekong fauna. Vientiane hosts the Asia-Europe meeting next week and some hope it will provide a chance for governments opposed to the dam to put pressure on Laos, according to the Economist.
Aid for Burma – For the first time in 25 years, the World Bank will lend to Burma, in light of the regime starting to implement political and economic reforms, reports the BBC. The $80 million grant, said the World Bank, will go to the country’s rural communities to build roads, bridges, schools and health clinics. Asia’s second poorest nation will also receive an extra $165 million once it has cleared its overdue debt to the bank.
Drug Trade — The New York Times reports that Guinea-Bissau in West Africa has turned into a drug trafficking haven after the military staged a coup and ousted the president on April 12. Experts alleged that trafficking has intensified since the coup because the figurehead government and senior military officers are directly involved in facilitating the illicit drug trade. “Soldiers now control the drug racket and the country itself, turning Guinea-Bissau in the eyes of some international counternarcotics experts into a nation where illegal drugs are sanctioned at the top,” wrote the Times.
Libya Attack – A timeline released on Thursday by senior U.S. intelligence officials has offered the most detailed chronology yet of the September 11 Benghazi attack in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed, reports the Washington Post. It states that the CIA had security operatives at the American diplomatic compound in Libya within 25 minutes of coming under attack. The account, which has been released only five days before the U.S. election, refutes previous media reports that agency leaders were slow to send help to those under attack. Intelligence officials have also said that they had early information that the attackers had ties to al-Qaeda-linked groups, notes the Associated Press.
The View from Abroad – Reports from international news sources show that President Obama has taken the advantage in the final days leading up to the election. In Spain, El Pais writes that the president has stepped back up to the mark by promoting national unity in the wake of the Sandy disaster. Meanwhile, Romney’s rise in the polls and surge in popularity has ground to a halt, said the Spanish national newspaper. The Irish Times notes that with only five days left, Obama is now ahead in three of the swing states; Florida, Ohio and Virginia. It also highlights how Romney continues to ignore questions about whether he still wants to dismantle FEMA, the federal disaster relief agency, which is co-ordinating relief efforts following the superstorm.
Northern Irish Shooting – Two men have been arrested in connection with the shooting of David Black, a Northern Irish prison officer who was killed on Thursday morning, reports the Guardian. The father of two was a member of the Northern Irish Orange Order, a protestant fraternity with unionist ties. Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Féin deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and former IRA chief of staff during the Troubles, has denounced the killing, calling the rationale behind the shooting “pointless and futile.” The British and Irish governments have joined together in condemning the shooting of the first prison officer to die at the hands of paramilitaries since 1993.