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Friday, August 17, 2012

Ethnic Violence  in Assam Spreads Fear Across India

Growing violence between Muslims and the Bodo tribe in Assam, one of India’s northeasternmost states, turned into widespread panic as unfounded rumors spread that Muslims were attacking northeastern migrants. Migrants, who went looking for success in the larger cities of the South, overwhelmed train stations as they tried to run home. In July and August, 78 people died in an ethnic fight over land in Assam, 14,000 houses were burned, and 300,000 people fled, looking for refugee camps. The Bodos, who dominate government in Assam, have tried to drive Muslims away by looting their homes and butchering some of their victims. Muslims organized a large protest in Mumbai, India’s financial capital. The government tried to reassure the population, but its old techniques of conflict containment proved less effective.

Germany’s Merkel Considers Softening Bailout Terms for Greece

Two members of the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, said today Chancellor Angela Merkel is torn between demanding that Greece keep its promise to fulfill the terms of its bailout package and softening her stance as the country struggles to meet the conditions it agreed to. Klaus-Peter Willsch, one of the two lawmakers (both of whom voted against Merkel’s government’s policies in the euro crisis), said that while “the official line is to stay tough,” some are being asked to “test the waters” were the government to ease its stance. The European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, the so-called Troika, has been examining Greece’s progress in meeting the conditions of its bailout. Should Greece fail to do so, the country would receive no more money. But Merkel is due to meet Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras next week, and the two are expected to find a compromise. Even still, the German parliament won’t easily approve a third bailout.

South African Police Commissioner Defends Shooting of Miners

South Africa’s Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega defended a police shooting that left 34 people dead and 78 wounded outside a platinum mine in Marikana, north of Johannesburg. The miners had been on strike for a week, demanding that their wages be tripled. Carrying machetes and spears, they had been protesting with increasing violence. Phiyega said the police had no choice but to shoot when “the militant group stormed towards the police firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons.” This was the deadliest labor-related event since 1994, the year that marked the end of apartheid in the country. President Jacob Zuma returned early from a trip to Mozambique and announced the beginning of a formal investigation into the illegal strike and the police’s response.

Egyptian President’s Media Crackdown Worries Dissenters

Newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s government has taken action against the country’s media, raising concern that a new regime won’t necessarily result into more freedom of information in the country. Two state prosecutors have filed charges against two journalists, and the government’s censorship unit confiscated an issue of newspaper al-Dostour. Morsi, who ran as a candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood, resigned from the party after his election, vowing to be a president to all Egyptians. Even still, he appointed Salah Abdel Maqsood, another member of the Muslim Brotherhood, as his information minister. The two journalists were accused of insulting Morsi and inciting to overthrow his government.

Russian Female Punk Band Pussy Riot Sentenced to 2 years in Penal Colony

The members of Russian punk trio Pussy Riot were found guilty of “hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred” five months after they played a song in the most sacred part of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, asking the Virgin Mary in an obscenity-laced performance to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin. Their action was meant as a protest against the Russian Orthodox Church’s leader’s support of Putin. They were sentenced to two years in a penal colony, a punishment Amnesty International has called “a travesty” and “a bitter blow to freedom in Russia.”  It is one of the clearest signs the government is cracking down on its critics, and though the ladies of Pussy Riot could have received a much harsher sentence, some analysts say Putin’s regime may have used the trial to radicalize and discredit the opposition.

Weekend Read: Me, Myself, Us

Interest is growing among scientists about the bacteria and microbes that live in and on us. “Our” ecosystems play a crucial role in staving off infections, but they also affect our moods and our metabolisms. This knowledge is starting to change the way medicine is practiced. In The Economist.

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