China-Sudan Relations — Sudan has authorized China to set up an agricultural free-trade zone, reports Reuters, as the northeastern African country tries to boost exports of agricultural products and livestock to offset the loss of oil revenues. The deal with China, Sudan’s main trading partner and donor, is a lifeline for Sudan, “as few Western countries or firms deal with Khartoum because of a U.S. embargo over the country’s human rights record,” writes Reuters. Under the deal, China will also train Sudanese farm workers and help with agricultural equipment.
Amazonian Growth — The New York Times reports that new energy and industrial projects in the Amazon are transforming the region into Brazil’s fastest-growing one and also raising environmental concerns. Ten out of 19 Brazilian cities that doubled in population over the past decade are in the Amazon. The region’s relatively high birthrate, incentives for manufacturing, and big energy and industrial projects are behind the Amazon’s growth. However, “biologists and other climate researchers fear that the sharp increase in migration to cities in the Amazon, which now has a population approaching 25 million, could erode” the recent gains Brazil has made in curbing deforestation, writes the Times.
Australia Abuse – The government of Australia and the defense force commander issued an apology to victims of abuse within the military, Reuters reports. Defense Minister Stephen Smith said that soldiers, sailors and members of the airforce were subjected to abuse as a means of “toughening up younger recruits.” This included sexual, physical and mental abuse after a report found 775 possible cases since 1951. An independent task force is examining whether victims will receive compensation.
Power in Egypt – Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi is holding talks with judges after new legislation caused nationwide unrest, the BBC reports. The legislation gives the president “sweeping new powers” and has been tied to violent protests and a 9 % drop in the Egyptian stock market. Many judges, journalists and citizens have led calls for strikes in wake of the decree, which Mursi claims was temporary. Prominent Egyptians, including Mohamed elBaradei have said they will continue talks with the President until the decree is overturned.
Indian Facebook Arrests – Two young women who were arrested in India for Facebook comments made after the death of politician Bal Thackery spoke to the BBC about their ordeal. Shaheen Dhada posted a status that claimed Mumbai shut down out of fear during the services for the nationalist politician. After submitting a written apology to police, she was put on house arrest. Renu Srinivasan, a friend from college, liked and commented on Dhada’s status and was also arrested. “It was our opinion and we never thought another person would see this and create such [a] problem,” Renu told the BBC.