World Wrap

China eases one-child policy for first time in decades

China announces major reforms, Syria peace talks may favor Assad’s rule, and Philippines death toll rises as Aquino fights for his reputation. Today is Friday, November 15, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

China’s President Xi Jinping stands next to a Chinese national flag during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Sibling solution. Chinese officials plan to alter the one-child law for the first time in nearly 30 years. The revision could be a step towards abolishing the policy altogether, though its demographic effect may be relatively small:

Wang Guangzhou, a demographer from top government think-tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, estimated the new policy would affect 30 million women of child-bearing age In a country which has nearly 1.4 billion people. Although it is known internationally as the one-child policy, China’s rules governing family planning are more complicated. Under current rules, urban couples are permitted a second child if both parents do not have siblings and rural couples are allowed to have two children if their first-born is a girl.

In addition to skewing the gender ratio in favor of male children, the restrictive policy hurts the economy by decreasing the Chinese labor pool. Studies show that, under the current one-child system, the country’s labor force will begin to decline at a rate of roughly 10 million per year in 2025, while the elderly population will continue to grow. In July, China passed a law forcing children to visit their elderly parents, in a possible bid to ease the state’s responsibility for elderly care. Economic reforms include allowing the market to set fuel, electricity, and other prices, calming initial fears that  President Xi Jinping would fail to limit the power of state-owned firms. The document also reiterated Xi’s commitment to closing China’s controversial labor camps, a move sources previously said was met with resistance by Xi’s colleagues.

Russian militants fight in Syria, raise fears back home

Moscow fears return of militants from Syria, Bangladeshi workers get a raise but protests go on, and Philippines president blasted over typhoon reaction. Today is Thursday, November 14, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Local resident Dzhabrail Magomedov, who studied at a religious school in Damascus, looks on in Novosasitli village in the Dagestan region, September 28, 2013. REUTERS/Ilyas Hajji

Militants’ return. Russian officials fear that locally-born Islamist militants, fighting in Syria alongside rebel troops, may return home to join a violent movement for an independent Islamic state. Deadly clashes between militants and law enforcement are a near-daily occurrence in the North Caucasus region, where some residents abide by Sharia law. Moscow reports that hundreds of Russians are now fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a long-time Russian ally. Some Russian militants who joined troops in Syria fought for Chechen independence in the 1990s, repurposing their training for a new battle:

Ayatollah Khamenei’s vast funds

Iranian officials manipulate laws to maintain Ayatollah’s assets, China’s plenary communique fails to impress market, and looting starts as victims struggle to survive in typhoon-torn Philippines. Today is Wednesday, November 13, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Bending the rules. In his time as Iranian supreme leader, Ali Ayatollah Khamenei oversaw the massive expansion of Setad – a property-seizing firm founded in 1989 as a temporary way for the Ayatollah to appropriate assets from “enemies of the state” for charity. Under Khamenei, Setad grew to a $95 billion operation that secured his economic power, often using suspect means:

To make Setad’s asset acquisitions possible, governments under Khamenei’s watch systematically legitimized the practice of confiscation and gave the organization control over much of the seized wealth, a Reuters investigation has found. The supreme leader, judges and parliament over the years have issued a series of bureaucratic edicts, constitutional interpretations and judicial decisions bolstering Setad. The most recent of these declarations came in June, just after the election of Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani. The thinking behind this painstaking legal effort is unclear… the legal machinations served several purposes. The decrees enabled Setad to beat back rival institutions seeking to take property in the name of the supreme leader. A ruling on the constitutionality of privatizations smoothed Setad’s expansion beyond real estate and into owning and investing in companies.

Ayatollah’s assets protected him from sanctions squeeze

Khamenei’s corporation eased sanctions strain, Iran blames nuclear impasse on Western leaders, and China’s meager Philippines aid could further harm ties with Southeast Asia. Today is Tuesday, November 12, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with high-ranking officials in Tehran, August 31, 2011. REUTERS/

Spotlight: Iran → Sanctions sidestep. A six-month Reuters investigation found that Setad, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Ayatollah Khamenei’s land-grab firm, has provided the leader with the economic backing needed to remain in control. Setad has also been key in allowing Iran to maintain independence despite tough Western sanctions, and has managed to avoid restrictions:

Typhoon leaves an estimated 10,000 dead, and survivors begging for help

Super typhoon survivors seek aid, Khamenei’s economic power comes from property seizures, and Fukushima residents face the prospect of never going home. Today is Monday, November 11, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Survivors’ plight. Victims of typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 10,000 people and left whole towns isolated from help, struggle to find food, water, and medicine after one of the most powerful storms ever recorded devastated the Philippines this weekend:

Three days after the typhoon made landfall, residents of Tacloban told terrifying accounts of being swept away by a wall of water, revealing a city that had been hopelessly unprepared for a storm of Haiyan’s almost unprecedented power. Most of the damage and deaths were caused by waves that inundated towns, washed ships ashore and swept away villages in scenes reminiscent of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Typhoon Haiyan: The strongest ever?

Super typhoon Haiyan slams into the Philippines, Snowden asked unwitting co-workers for passwords to access secret documents, and Syria to miss chemical disarmament deadline. Today is Friday, November 8, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Typhoon Haiyan slams Philippines central islands. No reporter narration.

Haiyan havoc. Typhoon Haiyan – this year’s most powerful typhoon and possibly the strongest ever to reach land – hit the Philippines, forcing more than one million to evacuate, injuring seven and killing at least three people:

Power and communications in the three large islands of Samar, Leyte and Bohol were almost completely down but authorities promised to restore them within 24 hours. Officials warned that more than 12 million people were at risk, including residents of Cebu City, which has a population of about 2.5 million, and areas still reeling from a deadly 2011 storm and a 7.2-magnitude quake last month.

Xi Jinping’s power cuts

Xi’s inability to close labor camps indicates limits to his political clout, Russia scales back its economic growth prediction, and world powers meet with Iran to discuss its nuclear program. Today is Thursday, November 7, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

China’s President Xi Jinping lets Jordan’s King Abdullah (not pictured) leave first after a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Feng Li/Pool

Failure to launch. Chinese President Xi Jinping, expected to usher in reforms when he took office last year, has so far failed to shutter China’s labor camps in an indication of weakness:

Libyan wheat importers face uncertainty

Chaos in Libya threatens wheat imports, Assad gunmen steal from Damascus residents, and Toronto mayor admits to using crack cocaine. Today is Wednesday, November 6, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A customer inspects freshly-baked bread in a bakery in Tripoli, October 31, 2013. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Wheat woes. Libya’s unstable government, plagued by corruption and disorder since the Western-backed ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, is threatening importers’ ability to pay for wheat:

Syria destroys chemical weapons facilities on schedule

Syria meets its first disarmament deadline, Putin cracks down on Salafists ahead of Winter Olympics, and Maduro mulls Venezuela’s motorcycle problem. Today is spooky Thursday, October 31, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Sigrid Kaag of the Netherlands, the newly appointed Special Coordinator of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations speaks to the media after meeting Syrian officials in Damascus, October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

Disarmament deadline met. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reports that Syria has destroyed or made inoperable all facilities used to mix and produce chemical arms, meeting a November 1 deadline that is part of Syria’s chemical weapons disarmament agreement:

Syria peace talks set to stall again

Sources say “Geneva 2” Syria peace talks are likely to be postponed, French hostages return home, and Russia denies spying on G20 delegates. Today is Wednesday, October 30, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

United Nations Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (L) leaves a hotel while on his way to meet Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian capital Damascus, October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

Peace talks stall? Syrian peace talks slated for November 23 are likely to be delayed, according to Arab and Western officials. The conference was first proposed in May and has since been held up by disagreements between Western and Russian leaders and over who would be present at the negotiations table. Now, similar issues could cause a fresh setback:

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