By AUDREY JENKINS – STAFF WRITER
Kidal, Mali: Two French journalists were kidnapped and killed last Saturday in Northern Mali. According to a statement issued by the French government, veteran radio journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon of Radio French Internationale (RFI) were abducted by a group of armed men in a 4×4 following an interview with the leader of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a rebel group in Mali. Their bodies were found a dozen kilometers outside of Kidal with their throats slit.
Although authorities have not yet confirmed who is responsible for the deaths, several groups are under investigation, including the MNLA and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, a group notorious for its ‘kidnappings as capital’ tactics.
Tensions have long been high in the country of Mali, although they have since escalated on account of France’s intervention in January. Although they were successful in ousting al-Qaeda from power and restoring legitimacy to the Malian government in most regions of the country, France was unable to return the city of Kidal to governmental rule.
Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore, China: Given the current difficulties and debate surrounding the practices of the welfare state in the Western world, it may be no surprise that many have begun to question its efficacy. But even as the White House and Congress debate the logistics of entitlement programs like Medicare and debt-laden countries like Greece are being forced to drastically reduce their welfare states in order to remain functioning, several Asian countries, including Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore, and China, are actually in the process of constructing their welfare states.
Although Asian countries have typically taken more conservative economic policies, preferring to rely on familial structures to care for all but the most vulnerable of society, recent events have seen a reversal of this trend. Indonesia is set to enact national healthcare coverage that will insure all of its 240 million people. In Singapore’s 2013 budget, the government has taken measures to not only expand its healthcare programs but also to provide more substantial monetary support for its low-income citizens.
China is also searching for ways to funnel the wealth of some of their more frugal families into a system that will produce capital to care for its aging population. South Korean President Park Geun Hye took office with plans to subsidize higher education and offer free care for threatening diseases.
Although these new economic and policy developments are certainly bound to positively impact many downtrodden Asian nationals, the world will be watching to see if these countries can enact the welfare state without bringing down the wealth of societal problems that are currently facing the west.
Russia: While America celebrated Halloween, spending over six billion dollars on costumes, candy, decorations, and the perfect party favors, local governments all around Russia placed a legal ban on the holiday for its alleged power to negatively affect the “psychological health” of Russia’s children. While there is no ban on wearing costumes or trick or treating in the private sector, schools in the affected regions have been issued official bans on any state-sponsored events or acknowledgement of the holiday.
An increasing number of Russian regions have declared Halloween anti-nationalistic and harmful for the country as a whole. Citing a study by the state-run Institute of Pedagogical Innovations, Russian education ministries have claimed that the holiday is nothing more than propaganda for a western “cult of death.”
This aversion to western holidays should come as no surprise given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to nationalism and the discarding of distinctly Western celebrations and traditions. In addition to the fact that some of the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church view the holiday as Satanic, Putin is seen as condemning the holiday for its distinctly non-Russian roots.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Citizens are hopeful for peace talks after the defeat of prominent rebel group M23 on Tues, Nov. 6. M23 announced defeat as they were driven out of the villages of Tshanzu and Runyoni. Though hopes for peace are high, the DRC is full of various rebel groups, all competiting for the resources within the country.