The week at a glance...International


Astana, Kazakhstan

‘Stan’ is a slur: Seeking to dispel the image of his country as backward, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has proposed changing Kazakhstan’s name to “Kazakh Yeli,” which means “Land of the Kazakhs.” Kazakhstan is much more economically developed than its former Soviet socialist republic neighbors Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan and has none of the insurgent problems of Afghanistan or Pakistan. But the “stan” suffix, Nazarbayev said, makes the world lump his country in with those. Some Kazakh media have already started using the new name, though Parliament hasn’t yet voted on whether to adopt it formally.


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Move to the cities: China has announced a massive urbanization plan to move 100 million more farmers to cities in the next six years, and to improve the lot of the 100 million former farmers currently denied basic services in cities that were never adequately prepared to absorb them. Under China’s citizen registration rules, the rural transplants lack access to education, health care, and housing. The new plan would invest heavily in roads, trains, hospitals, schools, Internet service, and housing and provide a way for new arrivals to register as residents. Under the plan, 60 percent of China’s 1.4 billion people will be living in cities by 2020. In the U.S., by comparison, 82 percent of people lived in cities in 2010.

Taipei, Taiwan

Students occupy legislature: Around 1,000 students broke through a glass door to get into the Taiwanese legislative assembly hall this week, setting up sleeping bags and barricading the entrances with chairs. The students oppose a trade pact with China that was to be debated. Signed last year but not yet ratified, the pact, a pet project of President Ma Ying-jeou, is intended to foster closer economic ties between Taiwan and the mainland. But some fear that Taiwan’s innovative, dynamic market economy will suffer if business and investment flows to China. Parliamentary debate on the subject over the past months has been passionate, involving fistfights, hurled coffee, and at least one biting incident.

Kandahar, Afghanistan

Taliban threaten attacks: The Taliban have warned Afghans not to participate in next month’s presidential elections, saying they will “use all force” to disrupt the vote. All of the main candidates to succeed President Hamid Karzai support signing a security agreement with the U.S. that would allow some American forces to remain after December. But if the election is disputed, that agreement could remain out of reach. In the 2009 election, Taliban threats frightened many voters in the southeast away, and local officials ended up stuffing ballot boxes.


Bombing Syria: Israel launched airstrikes against Syrian military sites this week after four Israeli soldiers were wounded in a bombing on the border between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. “We hold the Assad regime responsible for what happens in its territory, and if it continues to collaborate with terrorists striving to hurt Israel, then we will keep on exacting a heavy price,” said Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The airstrikes on a Syrian military headquarters, a training facility, and artillery batteries killed one Syrian soldier and wounded seven. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad condemned the attack but did not threaten retaliation.

Abuja, Nigeria

Stampedes for jobs: At least 16 people died in stampedes across Nigeria this week after a half million people were invited to apply for fewer than 5,000 government jobs. “I cannot even imagine the number of people that stamped on me,” said survivor Rosemary Ogida. Labor activists blamed the government for inviting more applicants to each recruiting center than the sites could hold. At least 65,000 people were told to take the aptitude test at the Abuja National Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000—and only one entrance to the stadium was open. At least seven people died there. Interior Minister Abba Moro said the dead “lost their lives through their impatience.”

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