Brazilian Nightclub Disaster – At least 230 people died in a nightclub fire on Saturday night in the university town of Santa Maria in southern Brazil, reports the Rio Times. The disaster occurred in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, one of the wealthiest, most industrious and culturally distinct regions of Brazil. It’s believed the fire was ignited by sparks from a pyrotechnics show used by one of the performing musicians. “It’s the saddest, saddest day of my live,” Neusa Soares, the mother of one of the deceased, told the Buenos Aires Herald. “I never thought I would have to live to see my girl go away.” Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has cut short her official visit to Chile to be with the relatives and friends of those lost in the blaze. The disaster follows other nightclub related tragedies in the last decade, including the Buenos Aires blaze that killed nearly 200 in 2004, and the fire in Perm, Russia in 2009, where over 100 people perished.
Argentine-Iranian Commission — Argentina and Iran will establish a joint commission to investigate the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires nearly 20 years ago, reports the BBC. The attack on the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (Amia) on July 18, 1994, killed 85 people. Argentine courts have blamed Iran for the bombing but Iran has denied any involvement in the incident. Under the agreement, Argentine legal officials will be able to question Iranian suspects in Tehran. Five independent judges, none of whom will be from either Iran or Argentina, will be the members of the commission.
Italy’s Tax Cheats — The New York Times examines the Italian government’s latest efforts to clamp down on tax evasion. The National Revenue Agency’s new strategy attempts to infer how much suspected tax evaders earn by looking at their spending habits. Their new tool of choice is the “redditometro,” or income measurer, which examines dozens of spending categories, such as household costs, vacations, cellphone usage, clothing and car ownership. If a taxpayer’s expenditures seem more than 20% greater than the income he has declared, the agency will ask for an explanation, writes the Times. Critics of the redditometro have said it will discourage consumer spending and hurt businesses.
Not So Much Out of but In Africa — China’s media footprint continues to grow in Africa, following the launch of Africa Weekly by the China Daily, notes Al Jazeera. While major media outlets from other countries are closing bureaus in Africa and elsewhere, Chinese media outlets are expanding overseas to increase China’s soft power. In 2009, Beijing reportedly set aside 45 billion yuan ($7.2 billion) for the global expansion of state media. Such overtures in Africa have led some critics to believe that “Chinese media emphasize positive, feel-good stories about the continent,” rather than promote journalism, writes Al Jazeera.
Venezuelan Prison Riots – Venezuelan authorities have transferred prison inmates following riots within the jails late last week, which left 58 people dead, reports Reuters. Prisons Minister Irish Varela has acknowledged that corruption among prison workers has led to weapons smuggling which allows armed gangs to control the packed Uribana jail in the southwest of the country. Varela confirmed that 2,000 male prisoners and 130 female prisoners had been transferred to separate institutions. Authorities failed to carry out an inspection at Uribana on Friday to seize weapons when faced with armed resistance. Meanwhile President Chavez, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer in Cuba, has not been seen in public in 45 days.
Berlusconi defends Mussolini – Former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has sparked outrage following a series of comments he made Sunday defending the country’s wartime fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, notes Aljazeera. At a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, Berlusconi told his audience that although Mussolini was wrong to follow Nazi-Germany, he had been a good leader in other ways. Berlusconi, who was also accused of falling asleep at the ceremony, succeeded in grabbing headlines with his controversial remarks, bringing energy to a “hitherto lackluster campaign,” writes the Guardian.