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Over the last two years, as China’s microblogging culture has expanded, observers inside and outside the country have found hopeful signs that the Communist Party is starting to respect and respond to public opinion voiced online. The most notable case comes from the town of Wukan, where, in December, villagers staged anti-corruption protests that quickly developed a national and supportive online constituency. The Party responded with elections for new local leaders.
Do these recent, allegedly populist, inclinations indicate a government more willing to shape policy to fit public opinion? Or are they just savvy public relations ploys designed to satiate angry online masses? The limits of what China's Web activists can accomplish became clear this week, when outrage erupted over the mother of a kidnap victim's political detention in China's notorious re-education through labor system.READ MORE
Russia's opposition, notorious for its lack of organization, has devised an innovative way to choose legitimate leaders: a primary election held mainly on the Web.
Some of the biggest names in the Russian Internet -- including Web guru Anton Nosik and Ilya Segalovich, a co-founder of Yandex, the search engine that tops Google in Russia -- are working to get the technology ready for an Oct. 7 vote. The aim is to elect a coordinating council of 45 people who can organize rallies, speak for the broader movement and eventually act as a sort of shadow parliament.READ MORE
When the 2012 Olympic Games came to a close on Sunday, India, the world's second-most populous country, stood a distant 55th on the overall medals table, surpassed by Jamaica, Belarus and New Zealand among others.
To many Indians, this was yet another sign of all the troubles that beset Indian sports other than cricket (the country's most popular game and, with Bollywood, its most enduring national obsession). These handicaps include: the absence of world-class facilities and support for the country's few top athletes; the inefficiencies of the country's bloated and supine sporting bureaucracy; farther down the ladder, the lack of sporting facilities in schools; and the absence of a culture of sporting excellence in general.READ MORE
The wave of so-called express kidnappings in Sao Paulo was shocking enough. Assailants would invade a car, force the driver at gunpoint to proceed to the nearest cash machine to empty his or her account, then run up charges on the victim's credit cards.
A dentist told Istoe magazine that the gang threatened to kill her if they couldn’t get money out of her account: she was robbed of 7,000 reais (US $3500). An executive lost 18,000 reais and was dumped outside the Paraisopolis slum. One victim told the popular television show Fantastico she'd been hit twice in the face and had to get stitches.READ MORE
The Moscow trial of a punk action group ended Wednesday, with the three accused women making impassioned speeches.
Judge Marina Syrova will deliver the ruling on Aug. 17, and though it is likely that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich will be convicted, they have won a huge victory. The unprecedented international resonance of the case appears to have thwarted plans to hold a series of show trials against the opposition to President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule.READ MORE
In advance of the London Olympics, China’s sports authorities went out of their way to dampen gold medal expectations. Nonetheless, there were exceptions, foremost among them the assumption that gymnast Chen Yibing would repeat his 2008 win on the rings. So when, on Monday night, Chen took the lead with a lofty score of 15.800, everything was right in China -- but only briefly.
Moments after Chen's routine, Brazilian Arthur Zanetti gave a fine, but obviously flawed, performance. (Most notably, while Chen had a perfect landing, Zanetti stumbled on his dismount.) Nonetheless, Zanetti earned a 15.900. The Chinese reaction online, as represented by hordes of furious microbloggers, was swift: China was not only robbed of its rightful gold, but the country was also disrespected by the biased Western authorities running the London Games.READ MORE
India Against Corruption, a powerful if flawed mass movement that put the government under considerable pressure last August with its demand that a long-delayed anti-corruption bill be passed, made two widely watched moves last week. They also happened to be moves in opposite directions.
First, the group's talisman and moral anchor, the septuagenarian social activist Anna Hazare, went on a fast with several other figures from the movement (often called "Team Anna") to protest the government's continued inaction on the bill. Hazare had done the same thing to tremendous effect last August. This time, however, the response from the public, the media and the government was more muted. It seemed as if the movement's strategists -- notably the activist Arvind Kejriwal and the lawyer Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant Bhushan -- had reached a dead end. On Aug. 3, Hazare announced that he was calling off his fast and disbanding the movement.READ MORE
Could one of the most powerful figures in Brazil’s ruling Workers' Party go to jail?
Jose Dirceu, chief of staff to former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is often called the godfather of the party. Now he is one of the accused in a notorious corruption case that after seven years has finally reached the Supreme Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction to try high officials. The trial is being seen as a watershed in the development of Brazil's democracy and an acid test for its judiciary.READ MORE
On Monday, shortly after winning an Olympic silver medal in men’s weightlifting, China’s Wu Jingbiao broke down during a live interview for the CCTV network. “I’m ashamed for disgracing the motherland, the Chinese weightlifting team and all those who supported me,” he sniffled. “I’m sorry!”
As the stunned interviewer reached out to console him, Wu bowed in a dramatic expression of guilt and remorse for committing what has long been a cardinal sin in Chinese sports: failing to achieve gold in an Olympic event in which you are heavily favored.READ MORE
The three members of the female punk group Pussy Riot set out merely to protest the return to power of President Vladimir Putin. Now, their show trial is threatening to become a turning point in Russian history.
On February 21, 2012, three women in their twenties -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina -- entered Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, accompanied by several reporters. They crashed into the ambo area, reserved for priests, pulled on brightly colored balaclavas and performed a wild dance for about a minute. Footage of the performance was later used to make a video for the band's song, “Virgin Mary, Chase Away Putin.”READ MORE
Narendra Modi, the longtime chief minister of the state of Gujarat and by far India's most controversial and polarizing politician, created a stir last week -- and evoked images of a medieval world of justice -- when he declared in an interview that, were he to be found guilty of complicity in the gruesome communal violence that raged in Gujarat in 2002, he should be "hanged in a public square."
The violence, which broke out shortly after Modi became chief minister and claimed the lives of more than 750 Muslims and 200 Hindus, was marked by terrible violations of human dignity and damage to property. It made refugeees of thousands of Gujarati citizens, mainly Muslims, reducing them to a state of dependence and drudgery in relief camps. The disorder was also India's first -- and hopefully last -- "television riots," the horror relayed into drawing-rooms by 24-hour television news channels.READ MORE
Cell phone service in Brazil is not good. One might therefore expect Brazilians to have been outraged when the telecommunications regulator decided to ban major carriers from selling new lines; instead, they celebrated.
The National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) barred Tim Participacoes SA, Oi SA and America Movil SAB's Claro -- three carriers that control about 70 percent of the county's cell phone market -- from selling new lines in certain states beginning on July 23. Tim, worst hit, with a ban on lines in 18 states and the federal district, went straight to a federal court on July 20, in a -- failed -- attempt to overturn the ban.READ MORE
The ratings company Moody's laid out the scenarios this week in a report on the banking systems of Russia and other nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In the worst case, if the euro area debt crisis escalates, a quarter of all bank loans in the CIS would go sour and capital in the banking system would fall below regulatory minimums. Russia’s economy would shrink by 5 percent in the next 12 months and the ruble would lose 30 percent of its value. In the base case scenario, Russia would see a 10 percent depreciation of the ruble and a deceleration in growth to 3.5 percent over the next year, from 4.3 percent last year.READ MORE
In 2008, the Beijing Olympics was a symbol of the Chinese government’s ability to organize a world-class event. For the most part, the Chinese people accepted the narrative. Now, in the days leading up to the London Olympics, that legacy is literally being drawn into the city’s sewers.
It all began on July 21, when Beijing was hammered by 7 inches of rain -- with outlying areas receiving as much as 16 inches -- in what the local government claimed was the heaviest rainstorm since records were first kept in 1951. (The unprecedented nature has since been challenged.) The huge volume of water quickly overwhelmed the city’s sewer system, causing floods that turned cars into boats, made stairwells into waterfalls and even set off landslides. The widely-disputed death toll now stands at 37.READ MORE
In an especially shocking example of the gender violence ubiquitous in India, a teenaged girl leaving a pub with a friend on the night of July 10 in Guwahati, the largest city in the north-eastern state of Assam, got into an argument with a group of men and was assaulted by the mob for almost half an hour, while bystanders watched.
Already a victim, locally, of the peculiar cocktail of misogyny and moralism that lurks in almost all public spaces in India, the girl then also had her humiliation broadcast to the entire country by a local news channel whose reporter happened to be on the scene, and whose voice seems to be heard on the footage, possibly egging the mob on.READ MORE
Their concerns weren't so much about the misbehavior that had produced this result. Rather, they were worried that their shopping might be interrupted. In a Twitter posting, a Brazilian identifying as Thiago da Hora lambasted Sao Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab, saying, "Apparently Kassab has entered into a war against Sao Paulo shopping malls." Someone tweeting under the name Guy Franco chimed in: "Elitist! Hygienist!" A netizen with the log-on Tati Comelli commented: "'The majority of shopping malls in Sao Paulo are irregular.' What isn't irregular in this country?"READ MORE
When news broke last week that Ralph Lauren was supplying U.S. Olympians with “made-in-China” uniforms, Senator Harry Reid couldn’t hide his anger, political opportunism or lack of concern for how his response might be received abroad. He told a group of reporters at a press conference for a Democratic jobs bill, “They should take all the outfits, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”
Had Reid muted his remarks -- say, suggested that future uniforms be made in the U.S. -- few in China would have noticed or cared. After all, “China bashing” as a U.S. political phenomenon -- one that only increases in popularity during election years -- is well-known in China. Suggesting, however, that Chinese-manufactured goods be burned is not. And so, the Olympic uniform controversy soon filled Chinese news programs, microblogs and editorial pages.READ MORE
For about a month, Indian foreheads have been creasing at growing fears that the rains brought by the annual southwestern monsoon -- the climatic feature that most strongly distinguishes the subcontinent -- are going to be less than normal this year.
As of this week, the rain shortfall in India was about 22 percent, compared with the 50-year average, and the shortfall in several critical regions was worse. A rain map of India in 2011, a year in which the monsoon was close to normal, is here, revealing the enormous variations seen across a landmass as large and yet local as India.READ MORE
Before the Russian parliament went on summer vacation, it passed what is possibly the most odious series of bills in the history of the country's lawmaking. The legislation sets the tone for President Vladimir Putin's current term in power, due to end in 2018. The message is clear: If you are not with Putin, keep it to yourself.
It is sometimes difficult to pin down why Russia is called a restrictive, authoritarian society. Its laws were mainly written in the rollicking 1990s, an age of political freedom now remembered with nostalgia by Russian radicals and liberals alike. Tyranny in Putin's Russia has always been an elusive, selective phenomenon. It was reflected now and then in the fall from grace of a businessman, the firing of an editor, an unfair trial or the mysterious killing of an activist. Generally, dissent and protest were possible within a rather liberal framework.READ MORE
In its 10th year, Brazil's biggest literary festival, held in Paraty on the coast, attracted 25,000 visitors, nearly as many people as live in the picturesque colonial town. They came for the celebrity authors and films, sure, but mostly for an intimacy with books.
That's no small thing in a country where few novelists make a living, where illiteracy rates are around 12 percent, and where the newspaper with the largest circulation, Folha de Sao Paulo, sells around 300,000 copies to a population of 203 million.READ MORE