The World

6 minute read
Harriet Barovick, Laura Fitzpatrick, Alexandra Silver, Claire Suddath, Alyssa Fetini, Frances Romero, Kristi Oloffson and Kayla Webley

1 | Baghdad

An Uncertain Election

Six weeks after Iraqis cast their votes in the March 7 parliamentary election, a final outcome remains uncertain. Though former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and his Iraqiya coalition’s tally of 91 seats narrowly beat out incumbent PM Nouri al-Maliki’s count of 89, both fall far short of the 163 needed to form a government. Further complicating matters, al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance has ordered a manual recount of hundreds of thousands of votes in Baghdad that it claims have been affected by fraud.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

Breakdown of postelection Iraqi parliamentary seats












2 | Indonesia

Blasphemy Law Upheld

In a surprising ruling, Indonesia’s constitutional court held that a 1965 blasphemy law does not violate the nation’s guarantee of religious freedom and that it is actually essential to preserving religious harmony. Many criticized the ruling as a blow to religious freedom in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. The statute makes it illegal to “distort” the central teachings of the country’s six officially recognized religions (Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism). Critics charge that the law is vaguely written and, as such, is often used as a weapon against adherents of minority religions.

3 | Islamabad

Report on Bhutto’s Death

A U.N. panel has concluded that the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was preventable. The panel’s report blamed the government, local police and intelligence agencies for failing to properly investigate threats against Bhutto, who was killed while campaigning for her third nonconsecutive term. After the report’s release, eight senior officials were removed from their posts.

4 | Washington

Iran Policy Ineffective

According to a classified memo written in January by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and obtained by the New York Times, the U.S. does not have an effective policy for dealing with Iran’s continuing attempts to gain nuclear capabilities. Some analysts believe Iran might acquire all the major components of a nuclear weapon, including fuel and detonators, but refrain from actually assembling it so that it can remain within the parameters of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The memo reportedly highlights concerns that the U.S. hasn’t outlined a concrete strategy in the event that diplomacy fails.

5 | Washington

Animal-Cruelty Law Scrapped

PETA is not going to be happy with this one. In a major free-speech ruling, the Supreme Court struck down a 1999 federal law that made it a crime to sell videos or photos of animals being tortured or killed. Writing for the 8-1 majority–which overturned the conviction of a Virginia man who sold dogfighting videos–Chief Justice John Roberts called the scope of the law “alarming.” Interpreted narrowly, he argued, it could be taken as a ban on hunting videos. Rejecting the government’s argument that footage of such dubious value and high social cost did not merit protection, the court found that the free-speech right is content neutral. Justice Samuel Alito, the lone dissenter, said the majority opinion was grounded in “fanciful hypotheticals.”

6 | China


A week after a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Qinghai province, killing more than 2,000 people, injuring more than 12,000 others and leaving tens of thousands homeless, China observed a national day of mourning. On April 21, flags flew at half-staff, entertainment activities (including online games) were shut down, and citizens across the country bowed their heads. While state television aired footage of President Hu Jintao and other leaders observing the solemn day, Tibetan Buddhist monks–who have played a significant role in relief efforts–were not shown.

7 | Iraq

Al-Qaeda Falters

U.S. and Iraqi forces killed two top al-Qaeda operatives in northern Iraq. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu al-Masri were among the most-wanted terrorists in the country, according to Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hailed the operation as a “potentially devastating blow” to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

8 | Argentina

Ex-Dictator Sentenced

“Justice was delivered late, but it was delivered,” remarked an Argentine after a tribunal handed down a 25-year prison sentence for Reynaldo Bignone on April 20. The 82-year-old, the last of several dictators who ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983, was convicted along with six others of the kidnapping and torture of 56 people at Campo de Mayo, one of the nation’s largest former detention camps.

9 | Cyprus

Election Casts More Doubt

Turkish Cypriots elected Dervis Eroglu President on April 18. While Eroglu has long supported Turkish Cypriot independence (the Mediterranean island has been split between ethnic Turks and Greeks since 1974), he says the U.N. negotiations on reunification that began between his predecessor and the internationally recognized President of Cyprus will continue. Turkey’s potential admission to the E.U. is largely dependent on a resolution between the island’s two sectors.

10 | Venezuela

A Lucrative Partnership

On April 17, China and Venezuela inked a $20 billion financing deal that would provide much-needed cash (half of it in yuan) to the South American nation as China seeks to increase its oil supplies there. The highlight of the deal is a $16 billion agreement between the China National Petroleum Corp. and Venezuela’s national oil company to explore and pump new oil reserves in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt. Venezuela currently sends 460,000 bbl. of crude oil to China every day; the Orinoco deal is expected to nearly double that number. New refining capabilities and a booming economy have boosted China’s oil demands, making it the world’s third biggest oil importer, behind the U.S. and Japan.

[The following text appears within a diagram. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual diagram.]

China’s oil suppliers (in thousands of bbl. per day)


IRAN 544




OMAN 275




* | What They’re Archiving in Washington: If you thought it was impossible for social networking to get any nerdier, you were wrong. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone announced on April 14 that the microblogging site had agreed to donate its entire archive of public tweets to the Library of Congress for preservation and research. At 55 million tweets a day (only a small percentage of which are private), that’s a lot of cataloging for the world’s largest library.

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