Sectarian Violence — International aid agencies in Burma are having difficulty delivering aid to Muslim refugees, as sectarian violence intensifies in the Southeast Asian nation, reports the New York Times. Staff at medical charity Doctors Without Borders have reportedly received threats from radical Buddhist groups for trying to treat wounded refugees of the Muslim minority Rohingya, who are being persecuted in the western state of Rakhine. The Times noted that the threats against international agencies “underline the instability of the area and the potential for further violence,” despite the presence of security forces.
‘Golden Decade’ — The Guardian reports that despite the limitations of China’s current administration, which has been in power for the past 10 years and ends its tenure this week, it leaves behind a political legacy of “building the skeleton of a welfare state and attempting to put a shelf below those at the bottom of society.” Case in point: currently, 229 million urban employees and 449 million rural and urban residents have pension coverage, compared to 147 million and 55 million, respectively, from a decade ago. Experts countered that China needs to solve corruption and incompetence to make sure the funds reach their intended beneficiaries and overhaul the household registration system hukou to build a proper welfare state, wrote the Guardian.
Golden Appetite – And China is overtaking India as the world’s top buyer of gold, as growing wealth and spending power in smaller cities boost consumption of the precious metal, notes Reuters. Although consumers in China’s biggest cities increasingly prefer platinum, white gold and other nongold products, those in smaller cities still prefer gold. According to Reuters, industry insiders said smaller Chinese cities will account for more than 40% of the nation’s total jeweler market by 2015, up from 34% in 2010.
Getting Defensive – Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired the country’s Defense Minister, writes the New York Times. The dismissal on Tuesday of Anatoly E. Serdyukov shines a light on one of the highest-level corruption cases in the history of Russian politics. Normally, ministers and company managers who are close to Putin are shuffled around different positions rather than lose their jobs. However, a spokesman for Putin, Dmitri S. Peskov, claimed that firing the minister was necessary to ensure the continuation of a police investigation into alleged wrongdoing within the ministry. He explained that the investigation could not proceed while Serdyukov remained in office.
Greek Strikes – Demonstrators took to the streets again on Tuesday, protesting a new round of wage and pension cuts that the Greek Parliament is expected to approve, says Reuters. Trains and buses have ground to a halt, while ships are moored in harbors and flights have been canceled. The strike, which was called by Greece’s two biggest labor unions and will last for 48 hours, is the third major walkout in two months against cuts in public spending. With many lawmakers opposed to the proposed cuts, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is facing a very tight vote. It is expected that Samaras can only rely on 154 votes out of a 300-seat Parliament. Police in Athens have increased security in preparation for protests that could result in riots.
International Perceptions – As polls open in the U.S., election fever continues to spread worldwide. According to the calculations of French newspaper Le Monde, President Barack Obama will most likely be the winner. But it does hear from a small number of French supporters who recently gathered in a Parisian café to express support for challenger Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, a former Democrat editorialist for the Jerusalem Post explains why she’ll be voting for Romney this time around: “Obama has betrayed the ideals of the great Democratic Party and is a poor successor to Truman’s legacy,” she argues. In Germany, a commentator for Spiegel Online writes that the 2012 election is no longer a battle between the “good” Obama and the “bad” Romney. He believes capitalism is America’s true ruler in a country where “high-tech options are available only to the elite, and the rest live under conditions comparable to a those of a developing nation.”