Thailand elections held Sunday were most notable for opposition factions who not only boycotted the vote but actively tried to interrupt the voting process by harassing polling sites and stealing ballot boxes. Many Thais boycotted the elections, with turnout less than 50 percent. The size of anti-ruling-party protests has shrunk significantly but remains thousands strong. It’s clear the protests can’t linger forever, but a sit-down between the two sides seems unlikely. And questions plague the Thai military as it is pushed closer to a “last resort.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
The Eurozone economy bleeds more than $150 billion a year thanks to corruption, according to the first survey of its kind across all 28 member nations. Spain and Greece ranked among the worst, with more than 60 percent of respondents saying corruption impacted their daily lives. Up to 29 percent of residents of some Eastern European and Balkan nations said they were asked for a bribe, or “expected to pay one,” in the past year. With the EU’s anti-corruption budget limited to a fraction of the greater loss, can the tide really be expected to turn?
While Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych sought treatment for a respiratory condition over the weekend, 20,000 protesters stood their ground on the streets of Kiev. Yanukovych is back now, and demonstrators say they’re going nowhere until he leaves for good and elections are held. Opposition leader Dmytro Bulatov, who said he was abducted and tortured last week, has traveled to Lithuania for medical treatment. The U.S. and EU are reportedly working on a financial aid package to help Ukraine through a potential political transition. Amid all this turmoil, a healthier Yanukovych may still have trouble catching his breath.
Fewer women in the U.S. are ending unwanted pregnancies, a new study shows. In 2011, fewer than 17 abortions per 1,000 women were performed, signaling a 13 percent decrease from 2008. The study didn’t investigate reasons for the decline, but researchers at the Guttmacher Institute in New York point to the increased use of long-term contraception. The economic downturn is also a factor, as women have historically been more careful about birth control during tougher times. While the numbers are down overall, the use of the abortion pill has increased, constituting nearly a quarter of all non-hospital abortions in 2011.
Despite their 35-point margin of victory, the score really didn’t reflect the Seattle Seahawks’ dominance in the Super Bowl. In an extraordinary defensive performance, the Seahawks kept a tight lid on Peyton Manning — this year’s most valuable NFL player — and the rest of the Denver offense, which is the highest-scoring in NFL history. Manning said afterward that he’d never use the word “embarrassing” to describe their defeat. Broncos fans might disagree. But they’ll have to speak up over all the crowing from Seattle.
Further government bombing of Aleppo and intense rebel infighting have emphasized the inadequacy of last week’s peace talks in Geneva. Barrel bombings on Sunday killed 36 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In the previous two days some 90 people are believed to have been killed in the city, including victims of a twin car bombing arranged by Al-Qaeda militants. The blasts targeted and killed a rival Islamic leader. The continuing violence is a tough blow for the UN, which insists that the conflict can be ended diplomatically.
Yellen takes the Fed helm, Bernanke joins Brookings. (Bloomberg).
Libya destroys its toxic arms stock. (NYT).
Woody Allen hits back at abuse claims. (BBC).
Pakistan’s Taliban eye Imran Khan for talks. (BBC).
Ceren leads presidential vote in El Salvador. (DW).
A landmark political partnership in South Africa between the official opposition party, perceived to be white-dominated, and a black politician has disintegrated. Last week the Democratic Alliance announced that it would field Mamphela Ramphele — a co-founder of the black consciousness movement — as its presidential candidate. Ramphele said the partnership would put the race card “in the dustbin.” But amid controversy in her own party, Agang SA, Ramphele refused the DA, and the deal collapsed. The breakdown is a reminder of the deep rifts in a nation expected to let the ANC coast to another five years in power.
Source: The Guardian
Academy Award winning-actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment on Sunday morning from an apparent drug overdose. Having starred in more than 50 films, he will be remembered for his portrayal of complex characters. Hoffman won the 2005 Academy Award for best actor for his performance in Capote, masterfully playing the eccentric author of In Cold Blood. He was also nominated for performances in The Master, Doubt, and Charlie Wilson’s War and left lasting impressions on the Broadway stage. According to neighbors, Hoffman was a fixture in his neighborhood, frequently taking his three children to local coffee shops.
Women are filling more government security positions in Europe, and they have signaled a determination to cement these gains. At a security conference in Germany, the Dutch defense minister tweeted a picture of herself and her counterparts from Norway, Sweden and Germany, telling Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the “old boys’ networks are the oldest form of cartels we have in Europe.” It looks as though the women are forming their own club, but those who believe this signals a dovish turn in policy should think again. The German and Dutch ministers have outlined plans for a stronger European presence in international interventions.
Source: The Guardian
The Harry Potter generation may collectively reach for their Time Turners this week upon hearing that JK Rowling wished she’d ended her seven-book epic differently — with Hermione marrying Harry, not Ron. In an interview, Rowling described writing Hermione and Ron’s relationship “as a form of wish fulfillment,” adding that she hoped she wasn’t breaking too many fans’ hearts. Too late — many fans, including MuggleNet, the largest Harry Potter fan site, are up in arms over Rowling’s second thoughts. But at least fans have more Potter-related entertainment to look forward to with a new Rowling-penned film series coming soon.
Let’s face it: not everyone’s into football. If you’re trapped on the family couch for the Super Bowl, though, the multi-million-dollar ads never fail to disappoint as a show of their own. This year was no exception. Last night’s ads ranged from tear-jerking to sublimely ridiculous — all in the space of 60 seconds apiece. Favorites included Coca-Cola’s multi-lingual “America The Beautiful” rendition featuring breakdancing and purple mountains, and the unexpectedly emotional TurboTax spot. On the other end of the spectrum, even Broncos fans must have been hoping for the game to resume when Chevrolet’s ad featured cows and “You Sexy Thing.”
Source: New Yorker