Must-Reads from Around the World

France recognizes Syrian rebels, Haiti faces food crisis in 2013 after hit by Superstorm Sandy, and more Europeans take to the streets to protest austerity measures

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Orlando Barria / EFE / ZUMA PRESS

Two school children in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Nov. 12, 2012. The United Nations issued a humanitarian call for $39 million dollars to fight malnutrition and cover the basic needs of more than a million Haitians left homeless by hurricane Sandy.

French Backing — The New York Times reports that France became the first Western nation to recognize the new Syrian coalition formed by anti-Assad rebels. The move will hopefully help the coalition establish credibility and power to bring down the President. The Times notes this is not the first time that France has asserted its influence in overseas conflicts. In the early days of the Libyan uprising, the French government supported the rebels who eventually toppled the Gaddafi regime. “I announce that France recognizes the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and thus as the future provisional government of a democratic Syria and to bring an end to Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” President François Hollande said.

Sandy Crumbles Relief Work — Before Superstorm Sandy landed in the U.S., it devastated Haiti, killing at least 54 people, leaving 21,000 homeless and ruining 70% of food crops, according to the BBC. A series of natural disasters has shattered the Caribbean country, starting from a 2010 earthquake that wiped out more than 250,000 lives, followed by a drought this past spring, a tropical storm in August, and a heavy rain that lasted for two months before the arrival of Sandy. The U.N. warns that when 2013 comes, 1.5 million Haitians might have difficulty finding food.
Life-Prolonging Drink — After the president of Kazakhstan announced his wish to attain immortality, the country’s scientists said they had invented a yogurt drink that promises “the improvement of quality of life and its prolongation,” the Daily Telegraph writes. Zhaksybay Zhumadilov, 72, has ruled the Central Asian country since 1990: Two years ago he responded to a Korean delegate’s suggestion of staying in power until 2020 by saying, “Maybe, then, you’ll offer me an elixir of youth and energy – maybe you have such potions in Korea … I’m willing to go on until 2020, just find me an elixir.” The “elixir” Kazakhstani scientists created is called “nar,” which means “nourishment.”

European Unrest – Union workers in Spain, Portugal and Greece went on strike in response to government austerity plans Wednesday, but their influence on such measures remains unknown, the Wall Street Journal reports. The strike has led to minor violence in Spain, with up to 32 people being arrested.  Labor unions in Italy also participated in the coordinated strike, the New York Times adds. According to the Times, the Spanish strike was called after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy presented “a tough austerity budget for next year” and a jobless rate of over 25%.  In Italy, national transportation workers, except for airline workers, and civil servants went on strike as students demonstrated throughout the country.

U.N.happy– A leaked internal report finds that the U.N. failed in its mandate by being unable to protect civilians in Sri Lanka during the bloody civil war, writes the BBC. “Events in Sri Lanka mark a grave failure of the U.N.,” the audit concludes.  Over 100,000 people died during the 26-year war, which ended in May 2009. The conflict saw over 330,000 Tamil civilians trapped in territory held by Tamil Tigers, who forced civilians to act as human shields as the Sri Lankan government advanced.