Politicians in Honduras have been cementing the Central American country's reputation for dysfunction. Four and half years ago, the Honduran military -- with a nod from Congress and the Supreme Court -- staged a coup against leftist President Manuel Zelaya in order to halt his plans for populist constitutional reform. The repercussions of that decision have made a mess of the country’s recent presidential election.
Xiomara Castro, a leftist presidential candidate who also happens to be Zelaya’s wife, has so far refused to accept defeat in the Nov. 24 election, despite having apparently received about 28.8 percent of the vote, 8 percentage points fewer than the winner, Juan Hernandez of the conservative National Party.Read more »
It isn't every day that the most interesting foreign news in Indian newspapers is published on the "Tenders" pages. But there it was one day in October: a notice from the Central Public Works Department of Delhi, inviting applications from Indian companies for desks, tables and -- more strangely -- "chairs of different types including built-in cupboards," to supply an under-construction "House of the People."
That house of the people is the new parliament building of Afghanistan, which the Indian government is constructing in Kabul as a gift to the Afghan people for a crucial moment in their history: the 2015 parliamentary elections. Work on the building, on an 84-acre plot on the city outskirts, began in 2008, about the same time that Afghanistan began to take its own steps toward building a multi-tiered system of representative government. The edifice will be ready next year, in time to host the victorious candidates of the parliamentary elections that will follow the presidential and provincial elections scheduled for April 5, 2014. It will be an imposing physical manifestation, in the white marble of Herat and red granite from India, of Afghanistan's aspirations to move toward a peaceful democracy.Read more »
The widespread anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine could be the story of the year in Europe: proof that a poor nation can be guided by an overpowering need for freedom and fairness.
It all started with a seemingly inexplicable act of stupidity. On the night of Nov. 29, there were only a few hundred rebellious students left on Independence Square in Kiev -- the dwindling remnants of a protest against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to halt a major trade deal with the European Union, seen as the first step toward Ukraine's membership in the bloc. Then Berkut, the Ukrainian riot police, attacked. The official reason was that the city authorities needed to set up a gigantic artificial Christmas tree in the middle of the square, and the demonstrators were in the way. Berkut used truncheons indiscriminately on young men and women. About 40 students required medical aid.Read more »
Could India become a police state -- perhaps with the consent and even approval of a substantial number of its citizens? It probably could, if the indulgent reaction to the disturbing revelations about the secret surveillance operations of India's most prominent state government contained in tapes recently made available to the public is any sign.
The tapes show that in 2009, a young woman architect, nicknamed "Madhuri" to protect her identity, was put under continuous surveillance for more than a month by the state intelligence bureau, the crime branch and the anti-terrorism squad of the western Indian state of Gujarat, in an operation run by the state's notorious home minister, Amit Shah. Shah himself reported the results of the surveillance to a higher-up only named in the tapes as "Saheb" (literally, "sir," but more akin to "big boss").Read more »
Just how many children has China’s most famous film director fathered?
That’s the question officials in charge of enforcing China’s notorious one-child family planning policy in the city of Wuxi claim to have been trying to answer since May, when rumors (dutifully reported in Chinese and international news media) emerged that Zhang Yimou may have violated the country’s laws by fathering seven children.Read more »
With the European Union afflicted by financial troubles and rising nationalism, it's particularly impressive that the people of one country -- Ukraine -- still want in. Unfortunately, their leadership is moving in the opposite direction.
Over the weekend in central Kiev, tens of thousands of demonstrators braved the November chill and even tear gas to protest their leaders' sudden decision to scuttle an EU trade deal. As recently as last week, the pact had seemed on track to be signed at a Nov. 29 summit in Vilnius. Stefan Fule, the EU commissioner for enlargement, had praised the "determination" of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to push through the required legislation, which included a law allowing Yanukovych's political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, to leave prison and go to Germany for medical treatment.Read more »
To understand Brazil’s economic woes, one should consider how politics has ruined the country's most venerated sport.
It's no secret that the economics of the Brazilian soccer world are dysfunctional. For the most part, teams are poorly run, member-controlled organizations with histories of financial mismanagement, run by overpaid managers with little accountability. For years, soccer clubs stopped paying taxes and evaded social security obligations. And the government often rescued them from financial failure -- as it may be about to do again.Read more »
On Tuesday, the United Nations marked its inaugural World Toilet Day, designed to draw attention to the fact that more than one-sixth of humanity still lacks indoor sanitation, and that the world needs new ideas and technologies to deal with one of the most basic human needs.
If there is any one country toward which such initiatives must be aimed, then that is India, where a combination of ignorance, apathy, embarrassment, deeply ingrained cultural codes, ineffective policy, huge numbers and very different urban and rural sanitation challenges have meant that more than half of the population still doesn't have access to a proper toilet.Read more »
Russia's dismal air-safety record made the news again this weekend, when a 23-year-old Boeing 737-500 crashed and exploded at the Kazan airport 450 miles east of Moscow, killing all 44 passengers and six crew.
The tragedy caused much anger and speculation, and highlighted the unaccountable risk of flying in Russia these days. Center-left politician Dmitri Gudkov wrote on his LiveJournal blog that about 75 million air tickets a year are sold in Russia, compared with close to 1 billion in the U.S. Despite the relatively small passenger volumes, Russia is second in the world in fatal plane crashes after the U.S.Read more »
The performer -- who was born in Canada, though he rose to music superstardom largely in the U.S. -- has spent the last few weeks giving Latin American countries the sad spectacle of an entitled 19-year-old intoxicated with fame. The Latin American leg of his “Believe” world tour has been, to put it mildly, embarrassing.Read more »