Global Briefing, Jan. 19, 2012: Asia, Abortion and Afghanistan

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Korean Central News Agency / AP

In this undated photo released by (north) Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service in Tokyo on Thursday, November 6, 2008, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, wearing trademark sunglasses, is seen talking with officers during his visit to a squadron of the (north) Korean People's Army Unit 534, at an undisclosed location.

Imagining AsiaForeign Policy uses the case of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrihim to challenge the enduring myth that so-called “Asian values” are a barrier to democratization in the countries of East and Southeast Asia.

Food Fight — Hong Kong people have taken to the streets to rail against corporate greed shorter lunch hours for stock brokers. The Wall Street Journal chronicles their Quixotic quest to bring back the mid-day break.

Pyongyang’s Problems — The Global Post previews a yet-to-be-released book about North Korea. My father Kim Jong Il and Me is based on seven years of emails and discussions between Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi and the late dictator’s estranged eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, who says Kim Jong Un is but a “figurehead.”  Meanwhile Andrei Lankov, associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, tells Bloomberg he’s “more skeptical than ever” of reform in the north.

Abortion Abroad – As pro-choice and pro-life activists continue to battle over the procedure stateside, the Guardian highlights the horrifying number of unsafe abortions abroad. In Africa and Latin America almost all abortions are unsafe (97% and 95%, respectively) and across Asia, 40% of the procedures are unsafe. Perhaps even more significant is that the rate of abortion rises in regions where the practice is illegal, and those are far more likely to be dangerous.

Afghanistan’s Polio Crisis – After years of steady decline, the war-torn country saw a tripling of cases last year. It’s a major crisis according to Dr. Bruce Aylward, the polio coordinator for the World Health Organization, one that could affect many beyond Afghanistan’s borders. He told the New York Times that the rise in cases “increases the risk to neighboring countries and is both a local and national, and international, concern.”

Italy’s Bella Figura – The Italian phrase “la bella figura” means making a good impression aesthetically. “Too often, both in public and private, we confuse what is beautiful with what is good; aesthetic appreciation sweeps ethics aside,” writes Beppe Severgnini in the Financial Times. Could the country’s theatrical tendencies be behind the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster and Italy’s other “spectacular messes”?