North Korea‘s Capitalists — The Economist points out that North Korea’s “new capitalists” — traders who export raw materials to China and bring back consumer goods — are introducing the outside world to North Koreans and thereby brewing change in the pariah nation. Although the merchants still benefit from the status quo, “they are going to value growth more and security less than the ruling clique,” says the magazine. Such disagreements in what used to be a monolithic elite class could help erode the regime’s tight grip on power, it adds.
Child Sex Abuse — A new report shows that the Indian government falls short of protecting children from sexual abuse, notes the New York Times. The report by Human Rights Watch reveals that “police, government officials and doctors were unprepared to deal with child sexual abuse cases and often made the situation worse by not believing the children’s account and subjecting them to humiliating medical examinations,” according to the daily. HRW has called on New Delhi to step up child protection and to provide better treatment for victims.
Costly Fast-Fashion — Bloomberg Businessweek reports that fast-fashion brands could be putting laborers’ lives at risk in developing countries because of demands for constant product turns. The problem is that some fashion chains “push for the lowest prices from subcontracted factories in countries that already have some of the leanest production costs in the world [and] to keep their contracts factories may put concerns about production schedules before those of worker rights or safety,” writes the weekly. Last November, more than 100 workers were killed in a fire at a factory in Bangladesh that made garments for Wal Mart and Sears.
Pussy Riot Appeal — Three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the prison sentences they received after being convicted by a Russian court for protesting inside a Moscow cathedral, Reuters reports. Members of the all-female group were convicted by the Russian court for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after the performance, which was a profanity-laden “punk prayer” calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin. The protest in the church came at the peak of a wave of demonstrations against Putin’s rule. It offended many in mainly Orthodox Russia and drew condemnation from the Kremlin and church figures, notes Reuters. But lawyer Pavel Chikov said the protest was wrongly labeled religious when it was in fact political. He also said that Russia had violated the womens’ right to freedom of speech, a fair trial and liberty, and had treated them in an inhumane way while in custody. An ECHR ruling in favor of Pussy Riot could lead to compensation and possible acquittal, notes Reuters.
Mandela Photograph — Nelson Mandela’s granddaughters have released a photograph—the first in seven months—of the 94-year-old former President of South Africa, reports the Daily Telegraph. Mr Mandela, who spent three weeks in hospital in December undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones, was pictured holding his youngest great-grandson, one-year-old Zen Manaway. The boy’s mother, speaking during interviews to promote a new reality television show, Meet the Mandelas, in which she appears, said the photo shows how well her grandfather had recovered from his hospital stay, reports the Telegraph.
EU Budget Talks – A marathon session of talks failed to produce unanimity among European Union leaders on a budget worth nearly €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) to support farming, transportation and other infrastructure and major research projects for the 27-nation EU, reports the New York Times. The budget, which is negotiated every seven years, involves frenzied negotiations as leaders push aside Union-wide concerns in favor of getting the best deals for their own countries’ citizens. One contentious issue in the current round of negotiations has been a call from austerity-minded leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron for the EU to tighten its belt at a time when many European governments have been forced into stringent budget cuts, reports the Times.