World View Hot Topics in Pivotal Markets
The meeting between Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and 28 business leaders on March 22 was a heavyweight encounter.
The president faced off with Brazil's most powerful retailers, bankers and industrialists -- who between them represented 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.READ MORE
In February, news television cameramen covering the legislative assembly of the south Indian state of Karnataka caught and filmed three ministers of the local government watching pornography on a mobile phone while the House was in session.
The public was outraged at this astounding lack of judgment and the desecration of the sanctity of the House (although it was not clear that the politicians were guilty in any legal sense), and also amused at the explanation proffered by the culprits: that they were engaged in "research" about rave parties. The three ministers -- Cooperation Minister Laxman Savadi, Environment Minister J. Krishna Palemar and Women and Child Welfare Minister CC Patil -- were forced by their party to resign, and the speaker of the House promised an inquiry.READ MORE
It took slightly more than a month for Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, to react to the “punk service” held on Feb. 21 in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior by a group calling itself Pussy Riot.
Members of the radical feminist band choose all sorts of unlikely locations to play shrill protest songs with a hardcore punk sound: A subway station, a posh boutique, Red Square, the roof of a detention center. The performances are filmed, edited, overlaid with a studio-recorded soundtrack and published on YouTube.READ MORE
Nicholas Noe & Walid Raad
The so-called Yemen model for persuading a dictator to take the first step from power -- often invoked as international diplomats look for ways to end bloodshed in Syria -- is increasingly seen as foundering.
After a month in office, Yemen's new president, Abdurabuh Hadi, is struggling to hold the strife-ridden country together. Commentators in the region who recently were euphoric at the decision of Hadi's predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down have turned darkly pessimistic.READ MORE
TV Globo's Sunday-night news-magazine program, "Fantastico," is one of Brazil's most popular shows -- a breezy mixture of entertainment and in-depth reporting that is something of a national institution.
It's the investigative reports that grab headlines, and none more so than last Sunday's 22-minute expose of the fraudulent ways in which companies competed to get lucrative contracts with a public hospital in Rio de Janeiro.READ MORE
On March 10, a passer-by in the Southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, population 500,000, heard faint moaning from a construction site and alerted a cop. The policeman climbed through a hole in the fence and found a sight he is likely never to forget: a naked girl somebody had tried to burn alive. Oksana Makar, 18, was barely hanging on to life: Doctors later estimated that her burns affected 55 percent of her body. She had also been raped and half-strangled.
Police acted quickly, and three suspects, all local men in their early 20s, were apprehended the next day. Among them was Maxim Prisyazhnyuk, the adopted son of a local government official. The police apparently let him go, along with another one of the young men. But news spread quickly, and in a matter of hours, the entire city, a center of the sagging Ukrainian shipbuilding industry, seemed up in arms. The suspects were promptly taken into custody again -- now they needed protection from an angry mob.READ MORE
These are strange days for China’s netizens. On March 15, the Chinese Communist Party relieved Bo Xilai, the Chongqing Party Secretary, of his duties after his police chief allegedly attempted to seek asylum in the United States. It was arguably the biggest political story to hit China in two decades, and Chinese microbloggers embraced it with gusto. In the hours following the concise, two-sentence official statement the state media carried about the firing, citizens posted millions of tweets to Sina Weibo, China's most popular microblog, speculating about the causes and circumstances of Bo’s abrupt fall.
The Weibo frenzy lasted for roughly a day, but then, with ruthless efficiency, the censors that troll Chinese microblogs -- whether they represent the party or the controversy-averse microblog owners -- quickly vacuumed up most of those tweets, abolishing them from the site. Searches, too, for “Bo Xilai” on Weibo produced no results. The Chinese public knows nothing about what is happening between the factions who supported Bo, and those who opposed him.READ MORE
India's ruling coalition government, the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, advanced its fast-growing reputation for perverse populism and policy paralysis last week when it ratified the dismissal of its own railway minister, Dinesh Trivedi, shortly after he presented a fiscally prudent and forward-looking budget for India's railroad system.
Trivedi's offense was to propose a modest increase in passenger fares (currently subsidized by the government and cross-subsidized by freight fares) for the first time in nine years -- a necessary step to ensure the health of a network that ferries about 30 million passengers daily over routes totaling about 65,000 kilometers (39,000 miles). For this crime he was promptly yanked out of his job by his party boss, the firebrand Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress, who attacked the decision as "anti-poor" and sought to replace Trivedi with the presumably more obedient Mukul Roy.READ MORE
Nicholas Noe & Walid Raad
A year after the start of anti-government protests in Syria, even media controlled by the militant Hamas movement, whose leadership until recently was based in Damascus, regularly publishes scathing attacks on President Bashar Al-Assad and his backers.
The United Nations now says at least 8,000 people have died in Syria, while thousands more have been wounded, tortured or imprisoned, most at the hands of the regime’s security forces. So it's little wonder that only media controlled by the regime itself or aligned with its closest ally, Iran, now shows any enthusiasm for Assad.READ MORE
The cut wasn't unexpected. The bank has been trimming Brazil's Selic interest rate, one of the world's highest, since August. But the reduction was larger than expected, and the decision wasn't unanimous: Five members voted for it, two against.READ MORE
Sometimes, Chinese netizens pay more attention to a U.S. news story than Americans do. President Barack Obama’s Feb. 23 decision to allocate $51.5 million to eradicate an invasive species known as the Asian carp is a prime example.
Outside of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, news of this carp-control strategy barely registered with the U.S. public. But on March 6, it hit China and, like a jazz trio riffing for an hour on just a few notes, microbloggers took to the minor news topic with gusto, using it to explore issues ranging from corrupt civil servants to U.S. sovereign debt. Soon it even had its own hash tag, roughly translated as #Asian Carp on an American Rampage#.READ MORE
The mass protests that gave Vladimir Putin a wintertime scare may be on the wane, but many Russians' dissatisfaction with his regime is not. They are now looking for a way to express themselves more effectively.
On March 10, no more than 30,000 attended an opposition march down Novy Arbat, one of Moscow's central thoroughfares. That's less than half the turnout similar events attracted before the March 4 election. Some nationalists, who have been regulars at such events, made a show of splitting off.READ MORE
The greatest Indian publishing project in the last decade has involved more than two dozen remarkable poets, prose writers and dramatists brought together for the first time under one roof.
Interest in the work of these writers was flagging until the intervention of an American patron, John Clay, made it possible to broadcast more widely the marvelous rhythms, narrative structures, and moral cruxes in their work to non-Indian readers. The books were published in the U.S., a country that none of the writers in the series had ever visited, owing to constraints they couldn't help. But the fact that none of the writers was able to do a book tour may have meant that the works didn't enjoy as much attention as they deserved.READ MORE
Nicholas Noe & Walid Raad
For decades, residents of the oil-rich eastern province of Libya -- Barqah in Arabic and Cyrenaica in English -- were marginalized in favor of the western half of the country.
So with Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi gone and a constitution-drafting process slated for later this year, a contingent of Eastern leaders last week seized the initiative to make a bid for autonomy as the “Barqah Transitional Council.”READ MORE
Juliana Dias's death, at first glance, wasn't particularly remarkable. She was killed on her bicycle by a bus on March 2 on Sao Paulo's most famous street, Avenida Paulista.
But her death -- one of a reported five fatal road accidents involving cyclists in Brazil the same day -- sparked spontaneous protests in some two dozen cities across the country, and a fierce national debate.READ MORE
To whom does China’s history belong? For most of the past 60 years, the ruling Communist Party has chosen the historical narrative that best suits its political prerogatives. But in recent years, China’s netizens, aided by Internet archives and social media, have begun to wrest back control of China's story.
Thanks to Takashi Kawamura, the diplomatically challenged and utterly tactless mayor of Nagoya, Japan, the party and the people's views now seem to be converging.READ MORE
Perhaps more than 90 percent of news items that bring together India and Pakistan, the subcontinent's two great powers, report something negative: tensions along the border, bickering over the disputed state of Kashmir, concerns about terrorism, or, at its most benign, a storm of jingoistic sentiment and flag-waving on both sides on the eve of an important cricket match (as when the two countries met in the semifinal of the cricket World Cup last year).
So it came as a surprise last week when Pakistan's announcement of a "negative list" of items that couldn't be traded with India was warmly welcomed by the governments of both countries as a positive development. Margherita Stancati and Tom Wright reported in the Wall Street Journal:READ MORE
Vladimir Putin may not actually have won 64 percent of the vote, but his victory in Russia's March 4 presidential election is providing a tough reality check for the cosmopolitan, largely Moscow-based protest movement.
The official election results show that if the Russian capital had been a separate country, which in a way it is, Putin, with 47 percent of the vote, wouldn't have won in the first round of voting. Instead, he would have faced off in a second round against billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who won 20 percent.READ MORE
Nicholas Noe & Walid Raad
Four months after Tunisia’s first freely contested elections, critics of the country’s Islamist-led government are sounding the alarm: Freedom, they charge, and a certain Tunisian “way of life” are under attack.
Their concerns mirror those of secularists and Western diplomats across the region, but they are especially poignant in Tunisia. Not only was Tunisia the starting point of last year’s Arab revolts, but it had one of the most settled secular traditions in the region and perhaps the best prospects for realizing a liberal democracy.READ MORE
The Chinese people are rightfully proud of their centuries of culinary excellence and often show uncharacteristic immodesty when extolling it. But two decades of food safety scandals involving the contamination of baby formula, pork, eggs, peanuts and rice have rocked the country. And the use of recycled cooking oil, often known as “gutter oil,” in Chinese cooking has been a chronic safety problem seemingly immune to countless government crackdowns.
On Feb. 24, the Supreme People’s Court, in concert with top law enforcement agencies, announced that the sale of used cooking oil “seriously affects the image of the country and damages the credibility of the Party and the government.” Then, in a symbolic measure sure to satiate the most vengeful of China gourmands, it stated:READ MORE