Must-Reads from Around the World

The New York Times reveals the hidden fortune of the Chinese prime minister's family, auto production worldwide hits a record-high, and the Syrian ceasefire is already in doubt

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China's premier Wen Jiabao speaks during a news conference following the close of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at The Great Hall of The People on March 14, 2012 in Beijing.

Wen Wealth — A New York Times investigation reveals that many relatives of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have become extremely wealthy during his leadership. Corporate and regulatory records show that Wen’s relatives, including his wife who’s known as an aggressive dealmaker, hold controlled assets that are worth at least $2.7 billion. According to the Times, Wen’s family ventures received financial support from state-owned enterprises and some of Asia’s richest tycoons; his relatives also used offshore entities to acquire shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects. “Untangling their financial holdings provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected people have profited from being at the intersection of government and business as state influence and private wealth converge in China,” wrote the Times. The NYT website has been blocked in China over the story.

Getting Into Gear — A new study shows that global automobile production hit a record-high of 80 million new cars and lights trucks this year, heightening concerns among environmentalists, reports VOA News. The study by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington indicates that the world’s roads now have nearly one billion cars, most of which are fueled by petroleum and thus cause air pollution and climate-changing carbon emissions. Experts suggested that governments must develop better systems of public transportation to mitigate the public health and environmental toll of this trend.

Syrian Ceasefire – A truce between the Syrian government and the rebel Free Syrian Army went into effect on Friday and is planned to coincide with Eid al-Adha, hopefully lasting through Monday, the Washington Post reports.  Scattered gunfire throughout northern parts of Syria have left many skeptical as to whether the ceasefire would last as planned; however, rebels said they would honor the truce if the opposition stopped “shelling towns and cities under opposition control,” out of respect for U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who proposed the ceasefire. For more on Syria, TIME’s Tony Karon has his latest take here.

Plea Change – Retired businessman Christopher Tappin, who was extradited to the United States for allegedly selling weapons parts to Iran, has agreed to change his plea to guilty after a deal was struck with prosecutors, according to the BBC.  Tappin has denied trying to sell weapons to Iran, originally claiming that he was “the victim of an FBI sting.” The BBC reports that Tappin was the former director of a U.K.-based international shipping company, based on the outskirts of London. He was flown from the U.K. to the U.S. in February after British judges granted extradition.

Evading Pressures – Despite an increase in sanctions from the European Union and the United States, Iran has been successful in increasing its coal trade in order “to prevent its industrial economy from crashing,” Reuters reports. Iran is receiving raw materials from the Ukraine in order bolster their economy and aid in steel production due to a recent European Union ban on steel sales to the Islamic Republic. This boom in coal trading comes as intelligence officials from different countries asserted that Iran has nearly completed an “underground nuclear enrichment plan,” the New York Times adds.