Minimum Wage — The Chinese government plans to raise the country’s minimum wage to close the widening income gap between the poor and wealthy, reports the BBC. The State Council approved a long-awaited income-distribution plan, which raises the minimum wage to 40% of average urban salaries by 2015. Beijing’s 35-point plan also includes “loosening controls on lending and deposit rates and increasing spending on education and affordable housing,” according to Bloomberg. Last year, China’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income disparity, increased to 0.474 — above the 0.4 level experts consider as a threshold for potential social unrest.
Wildlife Trafficking — As Thailand steps up its fight against wildlife trafficking, it is faced with a growing burden of taking care of rescued animals, notes the New York Times. Wildlife centers across the nation are filled to capacity and the cost of animal care at government centers nationwide amounts to about $57,000 per month. The clampdown comes as Bangkok prepares to host a meeting next month to discuss the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the main international agreement on wildlife smuggling.
E.U. Fishing Reform — Members of the European Parliament vote Wednesday on a fishing reform package that could stop crews from throwing away unwanted fish, reports the BBC. MEPs will also vote on “long-term plans to protect stocks from overfishing and whether to allow fisheries management to shift to a regional level,” according to the broadcaster. Public and media pressure to pass the reform package has been intense, as an estimated 75% of Europe’s stocks are overfished.
Taliban Office — After a meeting in the U.K., President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and British Prime Minister David Cameron have given the go-ahead for an official Taliban office in Qatar, which will allow for negotiations with the militant network, reports the Times of London. The move was described as necessary in order to achieve the goal of bringing peace to Afghanistan by the summer, but political analysts warned that such a goal was unrealistic because there were no representatives from either the U.S. or the Taliban at Tuesday’s meeting, reports the Times. Officials in Kabul said the Taliban, who have previously limited communications to infrequent informal talks with Washington, are moving closer to talks with the Afghan government, which it has repeatedly denounced as corrupt and unrepresentative, notes the Times.
Falklands Dispute – Argentina will control the Falkland Islands within 20 years, according to the country’s foreign minister. During a meeting with British members of parliament, Hector Timerman ruled out military action but said that Britain would be forced to compromise in the face of international pressure over what he termed the “occupation of a foreign land,” reports the Daily Telegraph. Speaking to members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Argentina, Timerman provoked outrage when he called the Islands’ residents “settlers.” The Islands’ government has angered the Argentine government by pledging to hold a referendum next month, in which they are expected to confirm their allegiance to Britain, notes the daily.
Hizbollah Claims – The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hizbollah should be declared a terrorist organization, reports the BBC. Results of a six month investigation into the July 2012 bombing in the Black Sea resort of Burgas, which left five Israeli tourists and a bus driver dead, suggest that two suspects holding Australian and Canadian passports were directly linked to Hizbollah, notes the BBC. “This is further corroboration of what we also know, that Iran and Hizbollah have built a worldwide terrorist network,” said Netanyahu. “I believe that what is required right now… is to call it like it is.”