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Friday, November 15, 2013

China to Ease One-Child Policy, End Labor Camps

After its Third Plenum – a closed-door annual meeting of top party leaders – China has announced a range of substantial reforms, including loosening its one-child policy and abolishing its extrajudicial “re-education through labor” detention system. While most people will still be allowed only one child, ethnic minorities, disabled people and families in which at least one member is an only child will now be allowed to have two. Additionally, in the country, families will be allowed two children if the first is a girl.

The proposed changes also include restructuring the economy to encourage greater private participation in finance, promising farmers better protection and compensation for confiscated land, and easing migration restrictions for rural residents to put down roots in cities.

Libyan Anti-Militia Protest Turns Deadly

Libyan militiamen attacked thousands of peaceful protesters who were marching in Tripoli to demand that the country’s rampant armed groups disband. They killed at least 22 people and wounded at least 130 after firing on them with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The anti-militia demonstration followed calls by imams for protests against the militias and  former fighters who refuse to disarm. Witnesses said protesters were initially unarmed, but went home to gather weapons and then returned to the militia’s headquarters, suggesting more bloodshed is possible.

Bizarrely, Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zidan has blamed both the protesters and the militiamen for the violence.

CIA Collects Global Data on Money Transfers

Authorized by provisions in the Patriot Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the CIA financial records program collects bulk records of international money transfers, building a database that includes millions of Americans’ financial and personal data.  This revelation indicates that our knowledge of the US government’s data collection programs remains incomplete and is another example of the blurred line between domestic and foreign intelligence. Officials have suggested that more than one government data collection program has yet to come to light.

In other CIA news, the European Court of Human Rights has rejected the Polish government’s request to keep private the hearing on whether Poland hosted a secret CIA jail on its soil.

Armed Men Burn Records of El Salvador War Missing

Armed men broke into a nonprofit agency that works to locate children still missing from El Salvador’s civil war, beating up the office’s guards, stealing computers and setting fire to the group’s archives. The Probusqueda Association for Missing Children had been documenting cases of children kidnapped by the military during the war, which lasted from 1980 until 1992. The attack might also be linked to an appeal before the country’s Supreme Court that would eliminate amnesty for those found guilty of war crimes. The organization doesn’t yet know what documents are missing.

Depressing Environmental News

Scientists have announced that the world’s oceans are becoming acidic in a rate unprecedented in the past 300 million years, the result of human emissions of CO2. Ocean acidity could increase 170% by 2100 – about 30% of all ocean species would not survive.

Amazon deforestation increased 28% in Brazil between August 2012 and July 2013, which environmentalists blame on the country’s 2012 reform of its forest protection law. As demonstrated in Google Earth’s interactive map, the planet has lost a combined ‘forest’ the size of Mongolia between 2000 and 2012.

Japan has slashed its greenhouse gas reduction target in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, as all of its nuclear plants are offline.  Australia continues to embarrass itself at the Warsaw climate change meeting, due to its climate-change-denying prime minister. The World Meteorological Organization, meanwhile, has found that climate change is making the impact of severe storms – like Typhoon Haiyan, which has devastated the Philippines – worse.

Weekend Read: The Dream Boat

More than a thousand refugees have died trying to reach Christmas Island. But faced with unbearable conditions at home, they keep coming. Via The New York Times Magazine.

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