Mexican Teachers‘ Union – – Mexican authorities arrested the head of the country’s powerful teachers’ union, Elba Esther Gordillo, on charges of embezzling the union’s money, reports Al Jazeera. Gordillo ran the 1.5 million-member National Union of Education Worker for 23 years and allegedly embezzled roughly $200 million from union funds. On Monday, a day before her arrest, Mexico‘s President Enrique Peña Nieto signed sweeping education reform into law, which aims to move the control of the education system from the teachers’ union to the federal government.
India-Burma Trade — The Guardian reports that India is turning to Burma as a gateway to increased trade with Southeast Asia. After India signed a free-trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), two-way trade has jumped by roughly 40% to $80 billion in the fiscal year that ended in March 2012. Trade with ASEAN now accounts for 10% of India’s total overseas trade.
Japanese Day Care — In Japan, competition for a spot in public day care centers has become so intense that it now has its own name, “hokatsu,” notes the New York Times. As more Japanese women entered the work force, public day care centers are oversubscribed and waiting lists are sometimes more than 200 names long. “Some government officials have begun to label the shortage of day care spots a crisis that threatens to undermine attempts to re-energize Japan’s listless economy by keeping its large pool of young, highly educated women from paychecks that could help increase domestic spending,” writes the Times.
China Open Letter — Chinese scholars, journalists and activists have released an open letter urging leaders to ratify an international human rights treaty — the second such letter in three months, reports the BBC. The letter, which was signed by more than 100 people, and was posted on several prominent Chinese websites and blogs, comes days before Chinese leaders gather for the annual parliamentary session in Beijing. The letter asks leaders to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), “in order to further promote and establish the principles of human rights and constitutionalism in China,” reports the BBC. Part of the International Bill of Human Rights created by the United Nations, the ICCPR calls for basic civil and political rights of individuals, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Beijing signed the treaty in 1998 but the Chinese parliament has never ratified the document, writes the BBC.
Afghanistan Error — An apparent drop in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan has been revealed as a clerical error, writes the Daily Telegraph. Attacks were reported to have fallen by 7% over 2012. But this statistic failed to take into account figures from the Afghan security forces. The number of enemy-initiated attacks — defined as attacks with guns, mortars, rockets or improvised explosive devices — remained at the same level from 2011 to 2012, reports the New York Times. The revelation will come as an embarrassment to commanders in Afghanistan, who had repeatedly pointed to the statistics as proof that the NATO-led mission is succeeding, writes the Telegraph.
Egypt Balloon Crash – Egypt has grounded all hot air balloon flights across the country in the wake of Tuesday’s crash in Luxor, which claimed 19 lives, reports the BBC. The balloon is reported to have been 1,000ft in the air when it exploded. An investigator with the state prosecutor’s office has suggested that the balloon, which was carrying foreign tourists on a sightseeing trip, was in the process of landing when a cable caught around a helium tube, causing a fire to break out, reports the Guardian. Safety standards within the Egyptian hot air ballooning industry are now under intense scrutiny. Tuesday’s crash was not Egypt’s first, notes the Guardian: in 2009, thirty people were hurt in five hot air balloon accidents in the country – including three incidents within the space of one day. The latest accident comes as a blow to Egypt’s already crippled tourism industry – a pillar of its economy, writes the Washington Post.