Launch Liftoff – Following the supposedly successful launch on Wednesday of a satellite into orbit, North Korea has revealed to the world its improving weapons program, writes the Washington Post. With U.N. sanctions and bans failing to stifle missile launches and nuclear tests, analysts said that the North is presenting a growing security risk. Officials in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington are responding to Wednesday’s blast as the de facto test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and are working together to pursue the “appropriate action.” Critics of the Obama administration have said that North Korea’s launch should encourage the White House to rethink its “strategic patience” approach to the North.
Cuban Co-ops — The Cuban government passed new laws that call for the creation of more than 200 cooperatives in construction, transportation and other industries, reports the New York Times. Analysts said that if the co-ops grow they could “shift a large portion of the island’s economy to free-market competition from government-managed socialism,” writes the Times. Although the new co-ops will be nongovernmental, workers who want to start co-ops need to submit applications to local government offices, which then pass them to the Cabinet for approval.
Bride-Kidnapping — The Kyrgyz government is ready to vote on a law that would toughen the penalty for bride-kidnapping, which is an age-old practice in the Central Asian country, notes the BBC. Every year, an estimated 8,000 girls are kidnapped, mostly in poor and rural areas, for forced marriage. Currently, a man has to pay a fine or spend a maximum of three years in prison for kidnapping a women for marriage against her will; the new bill, however, proposes to extend the prison term to seven years.
Ancient Chinese Medicine — Major drugmakers are turning to ancient Chinese medicine to produce new drugs and revenue streams, reports Bloomberg. China’s market for traditional medicine (except for raw herbs and highly-purified compounds from herb extracts) hit $13 billion last year and could grow by 14% annually over the next five years, projects the consultancy McKinsey & Co. “Combining the scientific standing of western drugmakers with Chinese methods may overcome consumer doubts about the value of botanical treatments,” notes Bloomberg.
Egyptian Referendum – Opposition to the Egyptian administration have called for a “no” vote in the upcoming referendum on a draft constitution for the country, notes Aljazeera. The country’s electoral commission has announced that the referendum, which was originally planned for Dec. 15, will now take place both this Saturday and a week later on Dec. 22. The two-day voting plan follows the decision of a number of the judges, who are needed to oversee the vote, to stay away in protest of the referendum. Mass rallies have become a daily occurrence in Cairo since President Mohamed Morsi decided to propose a new draft constitution.