Must-Reads from Around the World

France approves a same-sex marriage bill, the Vietnamese Communist Party struggles with growing dissent and China is planning to build more aircraft carriers

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Francois Mori / AP

Pro gay marriage activists celebrate after French lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Paris.

Same-Sex Marriage — French lawmakers have passed a same-sex marriage bill in a 331-to-225 final vote, reports CNN. France’s lower house approved the bill, which also gives same-sex couples the right to adopt, despite strong opposition from some French conservatives. President François Hollande has to sign the bill to enact it. If the bill becomes law, France will become the 14th country in the world were same-sex marriage is legal. TIME’s Bruce Crumley, in his piece, pointed out that “given France’s rather liberal, live-and-let-live social reputation abroad, it struck some foreign observers as ironic the French took so long — and battled so bitterly — to legalize same-sex marriage that purportedly stodgier “Anglo-Saxon” countries like the U.S. and U.K. now appear to be moving toward rapidly.”

India’s Drought — Despite the forecast for this year’s monsoon, the rain might be too little, too late for India’s southern and western states that have already been parched by severe droughts, notes Reuters. The western states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan as well as the southern ones of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Prades — collectively spanning an area roughly the size of Southern Europe — need ample rain for food irrigation and output. A drought, according to Reuters, could reduce India’s economic growth by two percentage points.

Dissent in Vietnam — The New York Times notes that the Communist Party of Vietnam faces greater dissent from a population that is better informed and more critical of the single-party government that has been in power since 1975. To clamp down on growing dissent and skepticism, the government has sentenced a number of journalists, bloggers and activists to prison. The party, writes the Times, “is rived by disputes pitting traditionalists who want to maintain the country’s guiding socialist principles and a monopoly on power against those calling for a more pluralist system and the full embrace of capitalism.”

Chinese Sea Power – China is planning to build more aircraft carriers, thus extending its influence at a time of escalating tensions over territorial disputes with its regional neighbors, reports Reuters. The official Xinhua news agency said the new vessels will be able to carry more fighter jets than China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which was commissioned and began sea trials last year. China, which has more than doubled its defense spending since 2006, has recently been pressing sovereignty claims against Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South and East China Seas, notes Reuters.

Bomb Detector Fraud – A U.K. businessman has been found guilty of fraud by a British court after selling fake bomb detectors to war-torn nations, reports the Guardian. Jim McCormick made £55 million ($84 million) selling the detectors — which were based on a novelty golf ball finder and had no grounding in science — to Iraq, where the devices remained in use at checkpoints as recently as last month. It’s now claimed that McCormick paid tens of millions of pounds in bribes to corrupt Iraqi officials in order to secure contracts to supply the fake devices. An Iraqi General who ran the Baghdad bomb squad has been jailed for corruption as a result of an inquiry into the corruption along with two others, with more officials currently under investigation, writes the Guardian. McCormick also sold the detectors to Niger, Syria, Mexico and Lebanon, where a United Nations agency was reportedly a client, notes the daily.
Iran Currency Change – A change in Iran’s official exchange rate has raised fears of dramatic increases in the price of staple goods, leading Iranians to stockpile essential items, reports the New York Times. Iranian economists said the change — which could dramatically weaken the purchasing power of the rial, the national currency — is a result of a combination of severe Western sanctions and what is widely felt to be economic mismanagement by Tehran. Prices of goods like medicine, chicken, sugar, machinery spare parts and some chemicals are set to rise by 60% because of the currency change, which nearly doubles the mandatory exchange rate for importers of such goods, writes the Times.