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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Egypt’s New Government And Those Who Back It

Egypt’s prosecutor’s office has issued a warrant for the arrest of Mohamed Badie, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and nine other senior officials on charges of inciting violence. The Brotherhood had called for an ‘uprising’ after Monday’s violence and today rejected an offer to join Egypt’s transitional cabinet. The transitional plan revealed on Tuesday, however, was criticized by Egyptians of all political stripes as authoritarian and rushed. The document made it clear that all the transitional government’s power and authority stemmed solely from the general who executed the takeover.

Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have all pledged billions of dollars to the new government to keep it and Egypt’s economy afloat. America’s own financial involvement is more questionable. Under a “democracy assistance” initiative, the United States has bankrolled many of the opposition activists who pushed for the ouster of the country’s first democratically elected leader. This may have violated both Egyptian law and America’s own ban on funding groups who seek to overthrow democratic governments.

Senate Could Ban LGBT Workplace Discrimination

This morning, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to advanced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA seeks to make job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity illegal.  The bill has been languishing in legislative obscurity for almost 20 years, and as a result discrimination against LGBT workers is currently still legal in 32 states.

The bill passed with the votes of three Republican Senators on the Committee. With a record 53 co-sponsors in the Senate, it seems likely to pass there as well, assuming Harry Reid can muster the seven additional votes required to break the inevitable filibuster.

Heavy Rains Wreak Havoc in China

The worst rainstorms in five decades have flooded large areas of southern China’s Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, causing 36,000 people to be evacuated.  The rains have killed 50 people and disrupted 2 million lives. Landslides buried 11 homes and as many as 40 people in Dujiangyan and trapped hundreds inside a tunnel leading from the city to Wenchuan. Three bridges have already collapsed, and for the worst-hit areas, there is no respite in sight.

The rains reignite the debate on whether China should be encouraging development in these mountainous areas prone to downpours and seismic activity.  Sichuan has only recently recovered from a devastating earthquake in 2008, which razed cities and left almost 90,000 dead or missing. 23 feet of water has flooded into the newly opened museum memorializing the earthquake victims.

Criminal Probe Opened in Canadian Train Explosion

Citing ‘discovered elements,’ Canadian police have opened a criminal investigation into the fatal oil train derailment and explosion in the town of Lac-Megantic. Quebec’s police chief said they would be looking into criminal negligence, but that terrorism had been ruled out.

Operators and firefighters have made conflicting claims about the causes of the disaster, in which an unmanned train, carrying 100,000 liters of crude oil, caught fire in the village of Nantes, six miles from Lac-Megantic. The fire was put out and the engine turned off. At some point after the firefighters departed, the train started to move. Fifteen minutes later, it derailed and the explosions started. The blasts destroyed about 30 buildings, have killed at least 60 and forced 6,000 people out of their homes.

Trust in Government Falling Worldwide

The Global Corruption Barometer for 2013 paints a bleak picture. Over half of all respondents believe that corruption and bribery are getting worse in their countries and throughout the world, trust in governments is falling. One in every four people had paid a bribe in the past year to access public services. Unfortunately, this does not represent corruption’s full impact on people’s lives and world views – of those who had been asked to pay a bribe, two thirds had refused. Corruption rates were highest in sub-Saharan Africa (84% had paid bribes) and lowest in Denmark, Finland, Japan and Australia (less than 1% had).

The report by Transparency International called on government leaders to be more proactive in fighting corruption and its root causes – this can include their own unwillingness to pass laws that adversely affect their colleagues, friends and family. On the bright side, according to a leaked catalogue of bribes supposedly paid by a development company in China, each official may be bought as cheaply as $163.


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