Rabbi Plagiarism Row — France’s chief rabbi is resisting calls to resign after admitting to plagiarism, reports the Guardian. Gilles Bernheim shocked the country’s 600,000-strong Jewish community when he confessed during a radio show to copying other writers for his book on Jewish meditation. But he dismissed suggestions that he should resign his post, saying that to do so would be a “desertion.” Bernheim’s admission comes at a time when France’s political elite is under scrutiny, following the resignation of the country’s budget minister over a secret foreign account — leading to the biggest scandal of embattled President François Hollande’s government.
Cancer Grips China – Bloomberg Businessweek reports that data from Beijing’s Cancer Prevention and Control Research office has revealed that cancer is the leading cause of death in China’s capital. Since 2007, more people in Beijing have died each year from cancer than from the previous top killer – cardiovascular disease. The deputy director at the center, which is a division of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said exposure to environmental pollution, changing diets and sedentary lifestyles are contributing factors, and noted that the number of cancer diagnoses is increasing in both rural and urban China, Bloomberg Businessweek points out.
Death Penalty Trend – Amnesty International released its annual compilation of capital punishment trends, and at least four countries that had not used the death penalty in some time – India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia – resumed doing so last year, according to the New York Times. The London-based group said the number of executions in Iraq last year doubled compared with 2011, which it characterized as “an alarming escalation.” However, the yearly review showed that the overall shift away from death sentences and executions continued in 2012. The compilation excluded what Amnesty said were thousands of executions it believes takes place in China, where the number of capital punishment cases is kept secret, the New York Times notes. Amnesty has made the abolition of the death penalty one of its primary causes.
Kenya President Inauguration Controversy – During the inauguration of Kenya’s new leader Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni astonished the diplomats in attendance. He accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of blackmail, incompetence and self-interest in charging Kenyatta with crimes against humanity, according to the Guardian. President Museveni spoke on behalf of official guests at the ceremony, where the audience responded to his admonishing of the ICC and the U.N. with cheers and applause. The inauguration made history, marking the first time an ICC indictee has been made head of state, the Guardian notes. Kenyatta and his new vice-president, William Rutto, are both due to stand trial at the Hague for charges related to the aftermath of the 2007 elections, when more than 1,000 people were killed and 600,000 were forced from their homes.
Guinea-Bissau Smuggling — The caretaker president of Guinea-Bissau has been linked to a huge cocaine and arms smuggling ring, reports the Independent. Rear-Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, a former chief of the Guinea-Bissau navy, was arrested last week on board a yacht in international waters in the eastern Atlantic along with four associates, in a Drug Enforcement Agency sting. U.S. prosecutors allege that the men planned to bring 3.5 tons of Colombian cocaine, with a street value of $400m, to the West African country. They would then take a shipment of weapons back to Colombia FARC rebels for use against American anti-drug forces. Guinea-Bissau is known as a major hub for drug smuggling, and Admiral Na Tchuto has long been considered by U.S. officials to be an international drug baron, writes the Independent. But this case is significant in that the proceeds from the drug deal are being channeled back to Colombia.
Thatcher Death – Debate rages in Britain about how former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death will be marked. A former minister in the previous Labour government, John Healey, is to boycott a special sitting of parliament in which MPs are due to pay tributes to Lady Thatcher, reports the Guardian. Meanwhile, English soccer’s governing body has ruled out the possibility of asking clubs to hold a minute’s silence before this weekend’s matches, reports the Daily Mail. Foreign Secretary William Hague has defended the use of taxpayers’ money for next week’s funeral, which will involve hundreds of military personnel and a gun salute, writes the BBC. And the possibility of demonstrations during the funeral has led to concerns that police could make pre-emptive arrests, the Independent reports.