Assault continues: Encouraged by support from China and Russia, the Syrian government continued its relentless bombardment of Homs this week and began shelling other cities as well, killing hundreds. Among the victims in Homs were French photographer Rémi Ochlik and war reporter Marie Colvin, an American who worked for the London Sunday Times. “Active resistance has long since stopped, but the government is using the excuse of ‘armed resistance,’ in quotes, to continue this bombardment,” Syrian activist Rami Jarrah said. “They’re killing the democratic movement.” Russia said it would not join the new Friends of Syria group of Arab and Western nations, which is organizing support for the opposition. China, meanwhile, called on the international community to “respect the sovereignty” of Syria.
New president voted in: After a year of violent protests, Yemenis officially voted in a new president this week. The only candidate was Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who became acting president in November in a deal brokered by Gulf nations. The historic election is the formal end to the 33-year rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. “This is a qualitative leap for modern Yemen,” Hadi said. “There will be big political, economic, and social change, which is the way out of the crisis.” But some opposition leaders said Hadi, who has been vice president for 18 years, was too complicit with the old regime to make the kinds of reforms Yemen needs.
Stone son converts: Sean Stone, son of film director Oliver Stone, has converted to Islam in Iran and taken on the additional middle name of Ali. Stone, whose father is half-Jewish and mother is Christian, said he considers himself a “Jewish-Christian-Muslim.” He drew criticism for meeting with several top Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Stone denied claims that he was being used by the regime, saying he had spoken openly to Ahmadinejad. “I was very clear in saying, ‘You know, let’s stop with this “down with America” nonsense,’” he told Fox’s O’Reilly Factor. The elder Stone is a defender of Cuba’s Castro regime and anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
Korans torched: The U.S. Embassy went into lockdown this week after eight people died in riots over the burning of Korans at a U.S. air base in nearby Bagram. Protests broke out in several cities, as well as outside the base, where angry Afghans chanted, “Death to America! Death to the Afghan government! Long live Islam!” U.S. Gen. John Allen apologized, saying the books had been mistakenly included in a routine burning of base documents. “When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them,” he said. “I promise you, this was not intentional in any way.” A military official said the Korans had been removed from the detainee center’s library because they had been written in and it was thought extremists were
Not pirates: Italian troops guarding an oil tanker sparked an international incident by killing two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates. The troops were escorting an Italian-flagged ship from Singapore to Egypt when they encountered a fishing boat that they say failed to respond to warnings. The Indian coast guard escorted the tanker to an Indian port and arrested two Italian soldiers. Italy says the accused should be tried in Italian courts or by the U.N., but India insists it has jurisdiction. The world needs to “rethink the self-protection measures used by commercial ships to ward off attacks from pirates,” said Jonathan Delf of the maritime safety company BCB. “We have been warning for some
Raises for Apple workers: Apple’s Chinese partner Foxconn has responded to international criticism of its harsh labor conditions by giving everyone a big raise. Pay at the electronics manufacturing company, which makes Apple products as well as parts for Hewlett-Packard and Dell, will rise by 16 to 25 percent. Earlier this year, Apple asked the Fair Labor Association, a global workers-rights group, to audit plants operated by its largest suppliers, including Foxconn. The FLA said it had already found “tons of issues” at Foxconn operations. Some 40 percent of all smartphones and computers contain Foxconn parts.
Backstabbing drama: Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd abruptly resigned this week in the wake of rumors that he was about to be fired for disloyalty. The Australian press has been abuzz with stories that Prime Minister Julia Gillard had gotten wind of Rudd’s alleged plan to have her ousted. Rudd said such “soap opera” reports had made his job impossible. “I can only serve as foreign minister if I have the confidence of Prime Minister Gillard,” Rudd said. The two have long been rivals. Rudd was prime minister until Gillard ousted him in 2010 in an intraparty coup. If Rudd leaves Parliament altogether, triggering a by-election for his seat, it could bring down Gillard’s government, which holds a one-seat majority.