Must-Reads from Around the World

The Philippines Congress will decide on the fate of a reproductive health bill, an Iranian blogger was found dead after being arrested for his activism, and the BBC crisis goes from bad to worse.

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Andrew Meares / Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard reviews flood damage from a helicopter above Wagga Wagga on March 7, 2012.

Child Abuse Investigation — Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a national investigation into child abuse complaints among institutions, according to the Australian. Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports that Gillard was under pressure to address the issue after a top police investigator accused the Catholic Church of meddling and silencing the investigation. The prime minister said the probe would not just target the Catholic Church but also other faith-based organizations, state institutions and schools.

Sex Education — The Philippine Congress decides Monay whether to pass a highly debated reproductive health bill that would require sex education and subsidize contraception in the predominately Catholic country, the New York Times reports. With the highest birthrate in Asia, the Philippines also tops the U.S. when it comes to producing babies — 24.98 out of 1,000 people — almost twice as much as the U.S. Proponents of the bill say the bill would help eliminate poverty, but their opponents, supported by the Roman Catholic Church, disagree with them, arguing that high birthrate is the way out of poverty. The Times reports that many poor women know little, if anything, about sexual education and cannot afford contraception. The bill would go to the Senate next if passed in the House.

Iranian Blogger Dies — After being arrested for acting against “national security on social networks and Facebook,” Sattar Beheshti, 35, was found dead inside an Iranian prison, the Guardian writes. His arrest and mysterious death have stirred international outcry; many alledge that Beheshti was tortured to death for his activism. The BBC said that Beheshti was warned of his death before being arrested by Fata, Iran’s cyber police. “They threatened me yesterday that my mother would wear black because I don’t shut my mouth,” Beheshti wrote in his blog. He was arrested on October 30. Six days later his family was notified of his death. Iran is ranked among the lowest on Press Freedom Index, after Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.


BBC in Crisis – Downing Street has criticized the BBC’s decision to pay ex-director general George Entwistle a full year’s salary — at £450,000 ($715,000) — calling the move “hard to justify,” the BBC reports. Entwistle resigned late on Saturday after a report on the BBC’s Newsnight program wrongly accused a former Tory treasurer of child abuse. The BBC responded to Prime Minister David Cameron’s criticism by claiming that Entwistle would continue to help with BBC business, specifically two inquiries related to the Jimmy Savile abuse allegations. The BBC’s Director of News, Helen Boaden, and the deputy director, Stephen Mitchell, have been asked to “step aside,” while investigations continue, according to the BBC.

Eviction Problem — The New York Times describes the problem with displaced families in Spain, many of whom have to seek refuge as squattors or with family members. The problem is growing more severe as hundreds lose their homes each day. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to announce emergency measures on Monday, “though what they are remains unclear,” noted the Times. At least two people have committed suicide due to impending evictions, while others have sought refuge in some of the country’s abandoned housing complexes, which has been estimated at close to two million units. In Spain, mortgage debt is not able to be forgiven through bankruptcy and instead individuals are personally liable for the full amount of their mortgages, the Times adds.

Syrian Opposition Unites – Rival factions have agreed to a unity deal that creates an umbrella organization and bolsters Sheikh Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, a former imam of the historic Umayyad mosque in Damascus, as its leader, according to the New York Times. The decision was made in Qatar amid “constant cajoling by exasperated Arab, U.S. and other officials,” and included representatives from groups of “rebel fighters, veteran dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities,” Reuters reports.  But it is still unknown whether the newly formed Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces can bring an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

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