The news at a glance...International


Tripoli, Libya

Rebels advance: Libyan rebels expanded their territory this week as NATO bombed Muammar al-Qaddafi’s forces in Tripoli and outside Misurata. Airstrikes in the capital hit an Intelligence Ministry building and at least one other government building; Libyan officials said four children were hurt. The rebels control most of eastern Libya, while Qaddafi still controls most of the west, including Tripoli. So far NATO has not responded to rebel appeals for weapons, although the first shipment of U.S. nonlethal aid arrived this week, with thousands of Army-issue meals, boots, and medical supplies. Meanwhile, thousands of Libyans have tried to flee the country by boat, and hundreds have drowned.


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Muslims v. Christians: Mob violence against Coptic Christians this week raised fears that Islamic extremists were gaining influence in post-revolution Egypt. Whipped up by a false rumor that Christians were holding a Muslim woman against her will, a group of ultraconservative Muslims set fire to a church and attacked a Christian-owned apartment building, killing 12 people and injuring more than 200. Christians protested that the military government’s security forces did little to stop the attacks. They also oppose the new government’s plan to let Islamist militants who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan return to Egypt. “Every Christian is so afraid for the future,” shopkeeper Ibram Anton told

Damascus, Syria

Crackdown worsens: The U.S. and the European Union announced sanctions against Syrian officials as the government persisted with its violent repression of a popular uprising. The asset freezes and travel bans did not target President Bashar al-Assad directly, but did sanction top officials such as his brother Maher, who commands the Republican Guard. An estimated 800 people have been killed and nearly 10,000 arrested since late March. The cities of Daraa, Homs, and Baniyas are now under military occupation. “Sanctions alone will not deter Syrian leaders from using deadly force against protesters, as they feel the survival of the regime is at stake,” said Middle East analyst Murhaf Jouejati.

Doha, Qatar

World Cup bribes: The tiny desert nation of Qatar paid millions of dollars in bribes to secure the right to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, the London Times alleged this week. The newspaper told a British parliamentary committee that its undercover reporters had found that two African delegates on the board of the international soccer body FIFA were each paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar when the 2022 host country was chosen last December. Qatar prevailed over the United States despite concerns that summer temperatures of more than 120 degrees there could endanger players’ health. The Qatar Football Association denied the bribery allegations.


More food scandals: Chinese consumers have been frightened this spring by new revelations of tainted food. China Daily reported this week that despite the government push for food safety in the wake of the 2008 tainted-milk scandal, this year alone inspectors have found “salted duck eggs containing cancer-causing dyes, artificial honey, fake wine, donkey-hide gelatin, waste oil, sulfur-steamed ginseng, plaster tofu, dyed bread,” and other tainted products. Some reporters have discovered soy sauce laced with arsenic and mushrooms treated with bleach. “Basically, people now feel nothing is safe to eat,” said Sang Liwei of the Global Food Safety Forum. “They are really feeling very helpless.”


Second thoughts on nukes: Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has abandoned his government’s plan to increase reliance on nuclear energy, saying the country will seek renewable sources instead. Before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the government had called for nuclear power to provide 50 percent of the country’s energy needs by 2030, up from the current 30 percent. No more. “We now need to go back to the drawing board,” Kan said this week, “and conduct a fundamental review of the nation’s basic energy policy.” Earlier this month, Kan asked that another nuclear plant be voluntarily closed down while a higher seawall is built to protect it.

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