Must-Reads from Around the World

A record number of civil war victims are found in Syria, Denmark tries to lean its citizens off generous government benefits and a Chinese official has called for the country's 100 million religious believers to abandon their "superstitions" about sickness and death

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Shaam News Network / Handout / REUTERS

A Free Syrian Army fighter looks back while pointing his weapon at a police academy as smoke rises during fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, on the outskirt of Aleppo, March 2, 2013.

Syrian Conflict — In Syria, a record number of people killed by the civil war were found on Sunday, notes CNN. The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group in the country, said at least 566 bodies were discovered, marking the highest number of victims found in a single day since the conflict between the government and protestors began in March 2011. The U.N. estimates that 70,000 people have died from the fighting so far.

Welfare State — The New York Times reports that Denmark is rethinking its cradle-to-grave welfare policies as a growing number of Danes believe that too many benefits undermine the nation’s work ethic. The Scandinavian country provides free health care, free college education and generous handouts to its citizens but these perks, according to some experts, cannot be sustained for long if too many citizens choose not to participate in the work force and lean on government support instead. Because of those concerns, “Denmark is retooling itself, tinkering with corporate tax rates, considering new public sector investments and, for the long term, trying to wean more people—the young and the old—off government benefits,” notes the Times.

Burma Violence Report – Last year’s violence against Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority was planned and coordinated by security forces and Buddhist monks, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday. The violence, rooted in centuries-old religious tensions, erupted last July following the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by a group of Muslim men. HRW’s report includes interviews with over 100 people on both sides, and states that there is strong evidence that the violence, which left 180 people dead and over 100,000 homeless, was officially sanctioned, with reformist President Thein Sein appearing to approve a plan to expel Rohingyas from Burma. The report is released as the European Union prepares to drop most of its sanctions against Burma – a move that HRW’s David Mepham told the Independent is “premature and unjustified.”

Mob Rule in Pompeii – Publicly-funded restoration work at the ancient city of Pompeii is attracting the attentions of Italy’s mafia, reports the Independent. Last week, Italian investigators announced a probe into suspected Mafia involvement in the restoration works, which are part of a €105 million ($137 million) project funded by the Italian Government and the European Union following decades of “neglect and mismanagement” at the site, which attracts 2.3 million visitors a year. Police arrested the head of one restoration contractor, who was previously involved at the site and are probing the activities of four senior officials suspected of paying inflated prices for restoration work, writes the Independent. The bill for one contract, originally priced at less than €500,000 ($652,000), has inexplicably risen to €5m ($6.52 million), notes the Daily.

Religion in China – A Chinese official has called for the country’s 100 million religious believers to abandon their “superstitions” about sickness and death, reports Reuters. Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, told the Study Times that China’s economic boom had led to a surge in religious belief, which he attributed to a desire for reassurance in an increasingly complex world. But he said that while religion could be a force for good in China—which is officially atheist—it was important to ensure people were not mislead, writes Reuters.