Brazilian Education — Educational standards are too low in Brazil, the world’s sixth largest economy, and threaten to stunt the nation’s development, reports the Los Angeles Times. Even though Brazil has undergone impressive economic growth over the past 10 years, with at least 40 million people rising out of poverty, the country’s underfunded education system hasn’t kept up the pace. The government has proposed a plan to nearly double spending on education to 10% of GDP by 2020, but “critics question whether the money will be spent efficiently and crucial management problems with the nation’s teachers will be solved,” wrote the Times.
Sri Lankan Dynasty — Reuters notes that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family are controlling the economy and state institutions with what critics call a “personalized system of government” in the South Asian nation. According to critics, Rajapaksa turned Sri Lanka into “something of a personal fiefdom”, as he and his brothers control government ministries and departments that account for roughly 70% of the national budget, including defense and finance. Although the president’s rapid development of the country’s infrastructure has boosted the economy, critics view his family’s control of Sri Lankan commerce as the main reason for a shortfall in foreign direct investment.
Australian Aborigines — The Atlantic reports that high rates of kidney disease and diabetes among Australian Aborigines have created an “unhealthy population in the middle of one of the world’s healthiest countries.” Between 2004-2008, the death rate from kidney disease was 5.1 times higher among Aborigines than it was for non-indigenous Australians. Public health experts said diabetes and kidney failure among Aborigines are usually triggered by a combination of “environmental, health and social issues such as poor prenatal care, unsanitary living conditions, and depress,” wrote the Atlantic.
Female Bishops – The Church of England General Synod will vote this week on whether to allow women to become bishops, writes the BBC. The Church decided 20 years ago to ordain female priests. Although the vote is expected to pass comfortably through the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy, there is strong opposition from traditionalists, evangelicals and Catholics within the Church. If the measure is approved the first female bishop could be consecrated in 2014, but if it is defeated the proposal may be thrown aside for the next seven years.
Gaza Bombardment Continues – 11 members of the same family including 4 children were killed on Sunday when Israel bombed a house in Gaza city, reports the Guardian. The Israeli defence force admitted on Monday morning that the family had been killed by mistake, explaining that the house was either incorrectly pinpointed or that a missile malfunctioned. Meanwhile ten civilians and two field commanders from the Islamic Jihad were killed when Israel bombed suspected guerilla sites in the Gaza Strip on Monday, notes Reuters. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to arrive in Cairo to assist in ceasefire efforts led by Egypt. The Israeli media say that a delegation from Israel has also been sent to Cairo.
Congo Rebels Advance – The rebel group March 23 Movement or M23 are advancing quickly towards the city of Goma, the capital of the North Kivu Province in the Congo, reports the New York Times. The city, which has a population of one million people, also houses U.N. peacekeepers who have a mandate to use force to protect civilians. The M23 have traveled 18 miles along eastern Congo’s main road since Saturday, capturing villages and beating back the Congolese Army. The army claim to have killed more than 150 rebels since this new wave of fighting broke out last week.