News from Around the Globe, October 5, 2012 (expanded edition)
The following is an expanded edition of current news stories from around the world.
Lebanon ….Syrian Rebels capture an air defense site near Damascus.
In a highly unusual move, Syrian rebel forces have attacked and captured an Air Defense site just outside of Damascus. The move is very unusual in that the rebels have not been able to mount a successful attack near Damascus for several months. This could just have been a surprise attack that worked perfectly, or, it could portend the unraveling of Assad’s remaining defense forces.
Turkey launches more strikes against Syria, warns Assad regime: Don’t test our patience.
There’s a war raging, but kids still have to go to school. Lebanon waives book fees for Syrian and Palestinian children. This is the first year that Lebanese public school students will receive free text books through grade nine. Due to the conditions in Syria, Lebanon will not charge book fees to Syrian students. Palestinian children will also be exempt.
Brazil.....22 convictions to date in country’s largest political corruption trial.
This is a follow up to a story I previously reported. The trial is over and the verdicts are now coming in for the most important political corruption trial in Brazil’s history. The Cash for Votes trial has marked a new era of transparency in Brazilian politics, demonstrating that the country no longer wishes to ignore political corruption. The former president, Lula, is still a popular figure in the country, and while he has not been charged with any wrongdoing, his Chief of Staff appears to have been the architect of the corruption scheme. Lula’s former chief of staff, Jose Dirceu, is among 37 former ministers, lawmakers, businessmen and bankers tried before the Brazilian Supreme Court in the country’s most far reaching political corruption trial. The case involves a Cash-for-votes bribery scheme known as "Mensalao" (translated roughly to mean: big monthly payments). The bribery scheme took place during Lula’s first term, from 2002 to 2005. Lula is currently recovering from throat cancer and has not been charged with any wrong doing. However, few in the country now believe that it is likely he was unaware of the scheme. The final verdicts should be issued within the next week.
From Peru….president calls on construction firms to build low income housing.
One of the reasons I read foreign news is to find out how other countries approach their own societal problems. Sometimes, our approach is better, but often, we could learn a lot from how other countries deal with their problems. The president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, has been in office for a year, and has made dealing with social issues the core of his administration. His goal is to cut Peru’s housing deficit in half, within the next 5 years. The government is promising to provide direct support to construction firms that agree to build low income housing. It is expected that the construction industry will grow by 15% next year. Hmmm….I wonder if there’s a correlation between the government subsidizing the construction industry, and construction industry growth? Shovel ready jobs do exist in every single country. It’s just a question of funding those jobs.
From Australia…..is it hate speech or is it freedom of speech?
The Australian Supreme Court is involved in an extremely unusual freedom of speech case. Iranian born Shia Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis – referred to as Sheikh Haron – has lived in Australia for several years. He has mailed (and even hand delivered) letters to the families of Australian and British soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The letters accuse the deceased soldiers and contractors of being murderers, criminals and invaders. He was arrested and convicted of using the mail to send harassing letters. Now, Mr. Monis is asking the court to overturn his convictions on the grounds that his freedom of speech has been denied.
Some religious people really give religion a bad name.
From Germany….Exxon wants to use fracking extraction method in Germany.
Last year, Exxon Mobil applied for permission to begin extracting Natural Gas by the using the method known as fracking. The German government has been sitting on the application, neither denying, nor approving the application. As usual, The Spiegel provides an excellent analysis of this issue.