5 minute read
Harriet Barovick, Ishaan Tharoor, Alexandra Silver and Josh Sanburn

Autocrat-in-Chief Calls for Loyalty


Hundreds of thousands rallied in support of President Bashar Assad after a fierce crackdown on antigovernment protesters by security forces and Assad partisans. According to rights groups, 60 to 90 people have died since disturbances began in early March. The country’s Cabinet, in office since 2003, resigned March 29 in a bid by Assad to nip the burgeoning uprising in the bud. The next day, Assad, 45, who has styled himself as a reformer since rising to power in 2000, vowed his regime would not fall “like a domino” amid the upheaval in the Arab world. He blamed the troubles on foreign intrigue and called on Syrians to rally around his leadership. He promised change but was vague on when reform would come. Hopes that he’d scrap a 50-year-old emergency law enforced by his father Hafez have proved unfounded. Assad’s Syria remains an authoritarian, single-party state.

World by the Numbers

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Distance in miles that trace radioactive elements from Japan’s ruptured Fukushima nuclear plant traveled before turning up in rainwater that fell on Boston

$5 million


Award on offer from the U.S. government for finding those responsible for shooting two U.S. agents in Mexico City in February



Height in feet of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper, recently scaled by a French daredevil climber



Number of tigers in the wild in India, as counted by a new census–a 20% jump since a 2007 count

$1 trillion


Export revenue that OPEC, the cartel of oil-producing states, could earn this year with oil over $100 a barrel, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris

Violence Follows Window Dressing


In the Arab Spring, canning the Cabinet has been the first move of kings and autocrats eager to stave off further dissent. But though Jordan’s King Abdullah sacked his government Feb. 1, protests have continued. They grew violent on March 25, when police waded into a demonstration calling for more democratic reforms. One protester died. Officials claim Islamist elements are stirring up trouble, but the opposition says that’s a smoke screen, obscuring real grievances regarding social inequity and a lack of political freedoms.

The ‘Kill Team’ Comes Under Fire


President Hamid Karzai publicly condemned five U.S. soldiers accused of murdering at least three Afghan civilians. The alleged crimes committed by the so-called Kill Team–whose members reportedly engaged in routine substance abuse while on tour in Afghanistan–echo the infamous actions of U.S. troops in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004, as well as those of a platoon that participated in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Iraq in 2006. So far only one member of the Kill Team has pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in what military prosecutors say are “acts of unspeakable cruelty.” These include killing Afghan civilians, taking fingers as souvenirs and positioning bodies to make it look as if they died in a firefight. An in-depth Rolling Stone article put the spotlight on the alleged crimes and added to the headaches of U.S. and NATO officials leading the war effort in Afghanistan.

Saleh Lingers, His Country Unravels


As President Ali Abdullah Saleh clung to power in the face of mounting opposition, militants possibly linked to al-Qaeda ambushed government troops in several of the country’s increasingly lawless provinces. Looters stormed a munitions depot abandoned by Saleh’s soldiers on March 27; an ensuing explosion killed 100 and deepened fears that this poor and volatile country could tip into chaos. One of many autocrats weakened by the Arab Spring, Saleh finds himself increasingly isolated. Key allies, including influential generals, have defected to the opposition, raising the prospect of a Libya-style civil war. Saleh says he will step down eventually, but negotiations over the timing and nature of his departure are at an impasse. All the while, like other imperiled regimes, his government invokes the threat of foreign jihadists sewing discord on Yemeni soil.

Nuclear Fallout Hits Merkel


Voters in southern Baden-Württemberg state ousted the Christian Democrats–the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel–who had governed there since 1953. A coalition led by Greens steps in, buoyed by vast public distrust of nuclear power in the wake of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant. Merkel has long espoused pro-nuclear policies, and a hasty about-face couldn’t prevent one of her worst political defeats.

South Asia Stops for Cricket Epic


Over a billion people watched the March 30 Cricket World Cup semifinal between India and Pakistan, which the former won in dramatic style. Cricket is an obsession in both countries, and while the neighbors have fought three wars, occasions like this offer hope for rapprochement–and bragging rights.

Another Way China May Beat the U.S.


The U.S. is in danger of losing its competitive advantage over China in yet another arena. A study by the U.K.’s Royal Society has concluded that China may overtake the U.S. in scientific output by 2013. Tabulating both the number of internationally recognized papers produced in countries around the world as well as the number of times these works are cited by peers, the report found a dramatic leap in Chinese science, fueled by years of concerted state funding.

Both the output and quality of work by Chinese scientists have improved

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Number of scientific papers published










Growth in citations in scientific literature



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