Must-Reads from Around the World

Russia kicks out USAID; French satirical magazine publishes offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad

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Danile Beltra/AFP/GettyImages

The crew of the Greenpeace ship My Arctic Sunrise construct a heart with the flags of the 193 country members of the United Nations on an ice floe north of the Arctic Circle on September 14, 2012.

Arctic Competition — Arctic ice is melting at a record speed, exposing rich supplies natural resources, and, according to the New York Times, setting off competition among the world’s superpowers to secure political clout and an economic foothold in the region. “At stake are the Arctic’s abundant supplies of oil, gas, and minerals, that are, thanks to climate change, becoming newly accessible along with increasingly navigable polar shipping shortcuts,” it wrote. Unlike the U.S., Russia, and several other countries in the E.U. that have Arctic territory, China is a newcomer to the region and has been using its capital and diplomatic clout to step up its involvement in the Arctic.

Bye, USAID — The Russian government has ordered the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to end its operations in the country, reports the BBC. USAID, which has been working in Russia for 20 years and spends almost $3 billion on democracy and other programs, has until Oct. 1 to close the mission. Observers said the Kremlin’s aversion to pro-democracy civil society programs, funded by USAID, prompted the order.

Refugees in Italy — A new report issued by the Council of Europe remarked that African political refugees in Italy are “relegated to the margins of society and are increasingly victims of racist violence,” notes The Guardian. The report, which criticizes Italy’s human rights record, comes after the European court of human rights outlawed Rome’s policy of intercepting boats carrying migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and handing them over to Libyan authorities. The Italian government was also criticized for its discriminatory treatment of the Roma and Sinti in the report.

Gay Marriage Vote –  The Australian parliament struck down a bill that would have legalized gay marriage throughout the country, the BBC reports. The vote — 98 to 42 against — came after a heated debate which lasted for days. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbot both voted the bill down, while “majority Labor MPs were allowed to vote based on their beliefs rather than on party lines.” Some Members of Parliament remained optimistic that the government would eventually shift to reflect “community opinion,” according to the BBC.

Nuclear Free Japan? – The Japanese government has “backtracked” on its goal to become nuclear free by 2040, the Wall Street Journal writes.  Japan’s economy minister Motohisa Furukawa said that the government has decided to take a nuclear-free plan introduced last week “into consideration,” but it’s too early to determine whether a nuclear-phase out will even be possible by the 2040 deadline. The Journal alleges that this resignation may be a sign that the Cabinet is “bowing to pressure from the pro-nuclear business lobby.” Many in the business community claim that going nuclear-free would lead to higher costs in electricity, an unstable power supply and economic decline in Japan.

More Mohammad Controversy  – The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published multiple cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad Wednesday, Reuters reports.   The satirical weekly’s front cover depicts an Orthodox Jew pushing a turbaned man in a wheelchair, with “several caricatures of the Prophet on its inside pages, including some of him naked.” The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticized the magazine’s editorial decision, claiming that it was a “provocation” that would require enhanced security at French diplomatic offices abroad. French authorities sent riot police to the magazine for protection and offered similar criticism of their decision to run the cartoons.