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Around The World Ottawa Richer than Americans

Ottawa
Richer than Americans: The Canadian middle class has now passed the U.S. middle class to be the richest in the world. A New York Times analysis found that after-tax middle-class incomes in Canada, which were well behind those in the U.S. just 15 years ago, caught up in 2010 and have now pulled ahead. The U.S. is still the richest nation overall, but most of the income goes to the wealthiest, while in Canada it is spread more evenly. The poorest 20 percent in Canada are also better off than the poorest Americans. “The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days,” said Harvard economist Lawrence Katz.

Mexico City
Farewell to novelist: The presidents of both Mexico and Colombia delivered eulogies this week at the funeral of Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez in Mexico. Born and raised in Colombia, Gabo, as he was known, lived in Mexico for decades and wrote some of his best-known works there, including One Hundred Years of Solitude, a masterpiece of magical realism. The author’s birthplace in Colombia, the town of Aracataca, held its own memorial service as well, and the country declared three days of mourning. Both ceremonies featured mourners waving hundreds of yellow paper butterflies, a nod to one of the most enduring images from Solitude.


Havana
Condom shortage: Cubans are having trouble finding condoms. The shortage started in a central province last month and has now spread to the suburbs of Havana, including an area with a relatively high HIV rate. The price for a single condom has risen to $1.30, the average daily wage in Cuba. The state-run wholesaler Ensume blamed the shortage on the need to repackage 1 million condoms that were wrongly labeled as expiring in 2012 but are still good through 2014. Officials said they would allow pharmacies to sell the mislabeled condoms.

Rio de Janeiro
slum riot: Anger over the death of a famous dancer sparked a riot that left at least one person dead in a Rio de Janeiro slum near Copacabana beach this week. Residents torched cars, threw bottles, and set off makeshift bombs in a busy avenue in the main tourist zone, and when police moved in, gunfire broke out. The violence began after locals found the bloodied body of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, 25, a dancer on a popular TV show, who residents claimed was killed after police mistook him for a drug dealer. “The police beat my friend to death, just like they’ve tortured and killed in other communities,” said resident Johanas Mesquita. “This effort to pacify the favelas is a failure; the police violence is only replacing what the drug gangs carried out before.”

Paris
Reporters return: Four French journalists held for a year by al Qaida–linked rebels in Syria returned home this week after being released by their captors. The reporters, who were kidnapped in June while covering the Syrian war, are being debriefed by French intelligence and have said publicly only that they were held by “a jihadist group”— believed to be the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—and treated poorly. Officials denied paying ransom to secure the men’s release, but said they had met “certain conditions.” A French negotiator told Le Monde that the men were held among a group of 35 hostages of many nationalities, most of whom had governments or private entities negotiating for their release.

Pretoria, South Africa
Just an act? A prominent South African journalist has accused murder defendant Oscar Pistorius of taking acting lessons to prepare for his trial in the killing of model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Jani Allan, a former columnist for the Johannesburg Sunday Times, said “extremely reliable sources” told her that the double-amputee Olympic runner was being coached by an actor friend, who is famous in South Africa. She said on her blog that his frequent “mewling and puking” on the stand was a sham. A spokeswoman for the Pistorius family said the accusation that he had taken acting lessons was “totally devoid of any truth.”

Kfar Zeita, Syria
Chlorine attack alleged: The U.S. is investigating reports that Syria’s government bombed civilians with deadly chlorine gas, a violation of the international ban on chemical weapons. Activists in the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita uploaded video of people choking after gas bombs were reportedly dropped from government helicopters, and they posted photos online of canisters bearing the chemical symbol for chlorine. They said one child died and 50 people were injured in the attack. Under a deal reached with the U.S. and Russia last year following a deadly sarin gas attack, Syria has disposed of more than 86 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile, but chlorine, which has legitimate industrial uses, was not specified in that deal.

Bentiu, South Sudan
Horrific massacre: Rebels have massacred hundreds of civilians in the South Sudanese city of Bentiu in the worst atrocity of the young country’s civil war. Bodies, including those of children and old people, were piled in heaps in a mosque, a church, and other buildings all over town. The ethnic Nuer rebels killed all non-Nuer they found, egged on by rebel-controlled radio. “Use of hate speech via a public radio station to incite violence is a game-changer,” said Toby Lanzer, the U.N.’s top official in South Sudan. The fighting broke out in December after a political struggle between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, and has now broadened into an ethnic civil war.

Everest Base Camp, Nepal
sherpas on strike: Nearly the entire staff of 400 Sherpa guides who risk their lives carrying equipment up and down Mount Everest quit for the season after 16 of them died in an avalanche last week. “It is just impossible for many of us to continue climbing while our friends are buried in the snow,” said guide Dorje Sherpa. The Sherpas grew angry after the Nepalese government offered the victims’ families just $400 each in compensation, and they are now demanding the government share the proceeds of the multimilliondollar Everest industry. Hundreds of foreign climbers who paid tens of thousands of dollars each to make the ascent must now decide whether to try it without Sherpas or abandon the attempt.

Lingxi, China
Mob beats cops: Hundreds of furious Chinese battered five socalled chengguan, officers from a hated national law-enforcement agency, in the eastern town of Lingxi this week. The officers had been hassling a female street vendor, and when a bystander started taking photos of the dispute, the officers attacked him with a hammer. Passersby then turned on the officers. Pictures and video posted on the Internet show the crowd punching the officers, hurling bricks, and stamping on them, shouting, “Kill them! Kill them!” The incident went viral on Chinese social media. The chengguan are responsible for enforcing city regulations in areas such as commerce and sanitation.


Ramallah, West Bank
Political alliance: The two rival Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas, agreed this week to try to form a unity government, in an apparent attempt to present a single Palestinian leadership to bolster a bid to join the U.N. The Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah controls the West Bank, while the Islamist militant group Hamas, which has sworn to destroy Israel, controls the Gaza Strip. The two groups aim to announce a joint government in five weeks and hold elections by year’s end. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas was sabotaging peace talks. “Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel?” he asked. “You can have one but not the other.”

Al Lahab, Yemen
Anti-terror offensive: A large, multiday U.S. and Yemeni operation killed at least 65 suspected terrorists in Yemen this week, near a site where some 100 al Qaida militants were recently videotaped while meeting. U.S. drone strikes targeted a training camp and weapons caches, while U.S. special operations pilots flew Yemeni commandos to a militant compound where a gun battle ensued and scores of militants were killed. The Yemen-based branch of al Qaida is blamed for a string of plots against Americans, including the failed underwear bombing of a U.S.-bound jet in 2009.


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