Burma Sanctions – The European Union is set to lift all sanctions on Burma, with the exception of an arms embargo, following a dramatic series of reforms in the country, reports Reuters. A year ago, the E.U. agreed to suspend most of its sanctions against Burma for a year, having previously frozen the assets of nearly 1,000 companies and institutions in Burma and blacklisted almost 500 people. It also banned military-related technical help as well as investment in the mining, timber and precious metals sectors. The move to lift sanctions completely will allow European investment in resource-rich Burma, which borders the economic powerhouses of China and India. Last year, the U.S. also suspended sanctions against Burma, allowing American firms to invest under a general license, notes Reuters. But the E.U.’s move could see U.S. executives put pressure on Washington to lift sanctions entirely, in order to remove uncertainty over their investments in Burma, writes Reuters.
Afghan Sex Trade — The economic boom in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif is fueling its sex trade, reports the New York Times. Mazar is considered Afghanistan’s unofficial capital of prostitution, which has become easier to manage and harder to detect because of growing mobile technology and corruption in law enforcement. Most of the sex workers in Mazar are poor women — some of whom are married — who have no other way to support their family, writes the Times.
Deadly Judo — Over the past 30 years in Japan, 118 children have died and almost 300 have ended up with disabilities or a coma from practicing judo, notes the New York Times. Experts believe judo deaths have been frequent in Japan because of coaching techniques that push students too hard and thereby make body contact and collisions even more dangerous. Another problem, they maintain, is the lack of instructors’ awareness on safety issues, including how to deal properly with concussions. Although the sport is also popular in the U.S. and France, there have been no official reports of deaths or traumatic brain injuries for young practitioners in recent decades in those countries.
Russia Tax Trial – Russian prosecutors have asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for a British hedge fund manager who has embarrassed the Kremlin by exposing official corruption, reports the Independent. William Browder, the founder of Hermitage Capital Management, has been charged with tax evasion by investigators in Moscow. Another employee, the late Sergei Magnitsky, an auditor whose investigations on behalf of Hermitage exposed a network of officials and underworld figures in Russia’s largest ever tax scam, and who died in police custody in 2009, has also been charged. Magnitsky has since been posthumously put on trial – the first ever such case in Russia. Human rights groups said the case against Browder is politically motivated, writes the Independent.
E.U. Land Grabs — A new report reveals that land grabs are not just a problem in developing countries but also in the industrialized E.U., notes the Guardian. The report shows that large companies, speculators, rich foreign buyers and pension funds “grab” large tracts of land in Europe. Half of all E.U. farmland, according to the report, belongs to 3% of the big farms that are larger than 247 acres (100 hectares) in size. Authors of the report contend that “the ‘land grab’ has been fuelled by the common agricultural policy, which distributes one-third of all E.U. subsidies to farmers each year, but the funds have been captured by large-scale farmers,” said the paper.