Must-Reads from Around the World

Afghan opium production drops by a third this year, the rate of new HIV infections is cut by half, and legislation proposing women bishops in the Church of England is rejected.

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Afghan Opium —  A new U.N. report shows that opium production in Afghanistan has dropped by a third this year, notes the BBC. Although the amount of land for growing opium rose by 18%, bad weather and plant disease have decreased overall opium production, says the report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. Despite efforts to turn the South Asian country “poppy-free”, more than 90% of the world’s opium is produced in Afghanistan where a growing number of poor farmers cultivate the cash crop to support themselves.

HIV Infections — A study indicates that the rate of new HIV infections has been halved in 25 low- to middle-income countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, reports CNN. In 2011, there were 700,000 fewer new HIV infections than in 2001, according to the report “Results” released by UNAIDS. Progress against HIV has been most pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa, which has some of the highest number of HIV cases in the world. The report also notes that the number of HIV patients receiving antiretroviral treatment grew by 63% in the past two years.

Philippine Infrastructure —  The Financial Times reports that the Philippines is a popular destination for private investment in infrastructure. Over the past two decades, the Philippine government secured $54.3 billion in infrastructure deals, which amounts to roughly half of that of India and China. “The growing interest in infrastructure deals may help boost low overall levels of foreign direct investment in the Philippines, which lags behind its southeast Asian neighbors and is one of the factors blamed for the country’s historically sluggish growth,” wrote the Times.
Mumbai Attacker Executed – The lone surviving attacker behind the Mumbai 2008 bombings has been executed by Indian prison officials in secret, says Reuters. Pakistan national Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, who was caught on camera the day of the attack holding an AK-47 rifle, was hanged on Wednesday, a few days before the fourth anniversary of the incident which killed 166 people. A senior commander of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, which is believed to be behind the attacks, has called Kasab a hero who could inspire more attacks. This is the first time a capital sentence has been carried out on Indian soil since 2004.

Greek Aid – Eurozone finance ministers and international officials have failed to reach an agreement on how to find the money to keep the Greek economy afloat, reports the New York Times. After 12 hours of talks the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, explained to reporters how they were having difficultly finding “a conclusive solution.” Greece is looking for $40.2 billion in loans from the international bailout program although the country could receive a larger amount ($56 billion) with installments that are due by the end of the year. The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has insisted that financing Greece up until 2016 would help make its debt more manageable by the end of the decade.

Women Bishops – The ordination of women bishops in the Church of England has been narrowly rejected, reports the BBC. The proposed legislation needed a two-thirds majority vote in order to pass the motion, but fell short by six votes in the House of Laity. The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, has spoken of his “deep personal sadness” following the voting, while the new Archbishop, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, called it a “very grim day.” The House of Bishops will meet on Wednesday to consider the outcome of the vote.