Must-Reads from Around the World

The U.N. will investigate whether Syria's rebel forces used chemical weapons in a rocket attack, Brazilian lawmakers debate abortion reform, and Chad rebels threaten to restart rebellion against country's government

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AP / Aleppo Media Center / AMC

In this Tuesday March 19, 2013, citizen journalism image provided by Aleppo Media Center AMC which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, black smoke rises from a building due to Syrian government forces shelling, in Aleppo, Syria.

Chemical Weapons — The U.N. has announced that it will investigate the possible use of chemical weapons by Syrian rebel forces in an attack near Aleppo that killed dozens of people, notes Reuters. The Syrian government alleges that rebel soldiers used chemical weapons in a rocket attack on Tuesday that killed 26 people. Supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been accusing each other of firing a missile filled with chemicals.

Abortion Reform — While Brazilian lawmakers debate abortion law reform, the country’s medical regulator has, for the first time, supported the legalization of abortion on request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, reports the BBC. The Federal Council of Medicine said abortions should be legal during the first trimester because nearly 250,000 women every year seek medical treatment after undergoing unsafe procedures. Abortion reform faces strong opposition in Brazil, especially from the Roman Catholic Church.

Chinese E-Commerce — The Economist notes that China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba could turn into one of the world’s most valuable companies so long as Beijing does not clip off its wings. In 2012, two of Alibaba’s portals together handled $170 billion in sales, which is more than Amazon and eBay combined. The firm will soon go public and the estimated value of the company ranges from $$55 billion to more than $120 billion. By 2020, China’s e-commerce market is expected to surpass the existing markets in the U.S., Japan, France, Germany and the U.K.

North Korea Investigation – The U.N. human rights council has set up an inquiry to examine allegations of prison camps, slave labor, and food deprivation in North Korea, reports the BBC. “For too long the population of the country has been subjected to widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses,” Ireland’s Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said at the council. North Korea’s U.N. representative has criticized the investigation, calling it a political ploy. The probe will have to rely on satellite imagery and accounts given by defectors as access to North Korea seems unlikely. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said they already have evidence of around 200,000 people imprisoned in these prison camps, many of whom are subjected to rape, torture, and slave labor.

Chad Rebellion – Chad rebel leader Timane Erdimi has threatened to restart a rebellion against President Idriss Deby’s government two years after both sides agreed to lay down their weapons, writes Reuters. The Union of Forces of Resistance (UFR) rebel coalition brought an end to the conflict in 2010 after Chad and Sudan agreed to end their proxy wars and work together to rebuild their border areas. After two years Erdimi has said the rebels are no longer willing to wait for talks and have no other options left. “Our supporters on the ground are tired and are pushing us to fight given Deby’s obstinate refusal. We must resume fighting.” Deby seized power in a 1990 military coup in a country that has been hit by countless humanitarian crises over the last decade, including drought, conflict, and flooding.