Must-Reads from Around the World, July 12, 2012

Today's global picks: another Syrian defection, the U.S. wades into the South China Sea and the decline of the Tetra Pak dynasty.

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An image grab taken on July 12, 2012, from a video broadcast on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera shows the Syrian Ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, reading a statement in which he announces his defection to the Syrian opposition, on July 11, 2012.

Major Defect — Al Jazeera English hosts an exclusive statement from Nawaf al-Fares, the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, following his defection in protest at “what he described as the horrible massacre committed against the Syrian people” by Bashar Assad’s regime. “I urge all honest members of this party to follow my path because the regime has turned it [the party] to an instrument to kill people and their aspiration to freedom,” he said. In a statement reported by Syria’s state news agency Thursday, the ministry said he’d been “relieved of his duties” and faces “legal and disciplinary accountability.”

Choppy Waters — Reuters reports U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waded into the storm over disputed islands in the South China Sea at the start of a regional summit Thursday, urging “rival claimants … not to resort to threats and intimidation” — a indirect but clear reference to China — and calling for multilateral talks opposed by Beijing.

Dynastic Decline — The Guardian reports on the fall from grace of the Tetra Pak dynasty following the death of Eva Rausing. “The discovery of Eva Rausing’s dead body at her home in Chelsea, west London this week, and her husband’s arrest for drug possession, are just the latest episodes in a grim family saga,” it wrote. It’s final conclusion: “Opinions rush into the vacuum left by the Rausing family’s reticence, most of them cheap, all worth resisting.”

Aid Appeal —  Eight aid agencies operating in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, have come together to issue a plea for greater funding, saying their limited resources are “putting tens of thousands of lives at risk,” the BBC writes. The organizations, which include Oxfam and Save the Children, claim that Dadaab faces a $25 million shortfall, while its population has risen by a third in the past year alone, and it now houses nearly half a million people.

Environment vs. Profit — Reuters investigates an Indonesian palm oil firm who, six years ago, brought the “promise of jobs and roads to impoverished villages,” when it received preliminary approval to built a large plantation in a “swampy, forested corner” of Borneo Island. However, the firm has since been found to have cleared 23,000-hectares of forest without gaining a clearance permit from the Ministry of Forestry. Illegal deforestation is rife in South East Asia, particularly “where scores of palm oil and mining concessions overlap with protected forests.”

Free Speech — The New York Times states that the Malaysian government has “announced plans to repeal a colonial-era speech law used in the past to quiet political dissent.” The existing Sedition Act was enacted in 1948 while the country was still under British rule. Prime Minister Najib Nazak said it “represents a bygone era in our country.” It will be replaced by the National Harmony Act, but details of the new free speech laws, and how they will differ from existing legislation, are not yet available.