World News in Brief

Pakistan in the Balance

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte arrived last Friday in Islamabad to help coordinate a power-sharing arrangement between President Musharraf, opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and newly-appointed Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro. Musharraf continues to insist both that democracy is feasible in Pakistan and that his militarily-coerced reelection last month was legal, despite widespread public outcry. Either way, in facing the prospect of a Wild West with nukes, Negroponte has been overhead repeatedly assuring Musharraf that he looks sharp in Brooks Brothers.

Relief for US Travelers Draws Mixed Reviews

Anticipating holiday delays and layover meltdowns, last Thursday President Bush authorized plans to clear up extra air traffic lanes along the eastern seaboard for commercial flights. Logistics for the changes were conducted largely through the Pentagon, and the majority of the newly-available airspace has been secured from zones that had previously been “military only.” While trade groups, businessmen, and wearied travelers across the nation have expressed appreciation for the reforms, reps from Code Pink and instead insisted that the enacted changes are “just another of many signs that Bush is against our troops.”

Putin’s Tireless Efforts for the Russian People Recognized

With the 2008 Russian presidential election fast approaching, Vladimir Putin’s backers are seeking a third term for their “Volodya” despite the efforts of Russian constitutionalists and the Yabloko/SPS coalition. Amassed last week in Tver for a party congress, members of the “For Putin” delegation produced a petition with over 30 million signatures urging a federal amendment to expand the term limit. Reporters have called on Putin for comments on the matter, but the acting president has been unresponsive, choosing instead to remain in his dacha while recovering from a recent bout of carpal tunnel syndrome.

French Work Ethic Constrained by Strikes

In the wake of President Sarkozy’s announced pension reforms and cost-saving measures, a nation-wide transportation strike continues in France. Sarkozy tentatively agreed to enter negotiations with spokesmen from CGT, France’s largest rail workers union, but fresh on citizens’ minds are problems associated with the last re-haul of the pension system undertaken by Jacques Chirac in 1995. Still, some global economists claim that there is not yet any legitimate cause for concern: While over 60% of France’s worker class relies on public transit networks for commuting, studies show that many of these workers live near patio cafes where for the time being they can just as easily sip away the working day and ponder the morality of being.

Saudi Judges Hand Down Landmark Decision in Rape Case

An unnamed 19-year-old Shia woman was recently handed a sentence of 200 lashes and six months in prison for being the victim of gang rape at the hands of seven Sunni men. Initially, the sentence had called for 90 lashes and no prison time, but when the woman appealed the decision, Sharia judges decided that she was trying to use the “media” against them and the punishment was correspondingly expanded. It is tempting to say that this story speaks to the “medieval” qualities that persist in the modern Saudi state. Still, in fairness we should be careful not make such a hasty comparison — medieval values may have been brutish, but they included at least a modicum of human decency.

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