World leaders discuss Russian plan to avoid military strike in Syria

September 10, 2013

Russia’s plan for international oversight of Syria’s weapons moves forward, a Reuters report looks at the middlemen in the online exchange of adopted children, and four Indian men are found guilty of murder in gang-rape case. Today is Tuesday, September 10, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Free Syrian Army fighters take positions as they aim their weapons during what the FSA said were clashes with forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Idlib, September 9, 2013. REUTERS//Muhammad Qadour

Russia throws a wrench in Obama’s Syria plan. Syria accepted a Russian plan for the war-torn country to place its chemical arms under international control, offering an unexpected alternative to military action that President Barack Obama called a possible breakthrough, although he plans to proceed with a vote in Congress to authorize force:

With veto-wielding China also backing it, it would be the rare Syria initiative to unite global powers whose divisions have so far blocked Security Council action. Assad’s main regional backer Iran has also signalled support, as has U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon…. Moscow unveiled its proposal on Monday after Kerry, speaking in London, said the only way to halt strikes would be for Assad to give up his chemical arsenal. The State Department said his remarks were rhetorical and not meant as a serious proposal. But hours later Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for Assad’s government to do just that.

Western leaders seized the opportunity to make a concrete plan based on Russia’s proposal. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country will push for a U.N. resolution setting out terms for destruction of Syria’s chemical arms and warning of “serious consequences” if Syria violates resolution conditions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia is also working on a concrete plan which “stems from contacts we have had with our American colleagues.” Still, some are skeptical of the success of any resolution, fearing it could be a stalling tactic by Assad’s government to fend off U.S. military action. The Syrian government carried out an aerial strike against rebels on Tuesday for the first time since an apparent poison gas attack on August 21, for which Assad again denied responsibility in a Monday interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose. Opposition leaders, who have lobbied for military aid from the U.S. and others, cited today’s strike as a sign that Assad no longer feels international pressure. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appear today before a House hearing to discuss Russia’s proposal and the use of military force against Syria.

Megan Exon stands for a portrait at her home in Hickory, North Carolina, August 12, 2013. REUTERS/John Adkisson

Child brokers. Megan Exon was only trying to help families when she began moderating an online message board where adoptive parents advertised children they no longer wanted to care for. But her experience with a couple, Nicole and Calvin Eason, who had hidden a history of taking and mistreating children, made her reconsider the dangers of unauthorized child exchanges:

Exon would come to regret her role in the re-homing network, a collection of Internet forums where people seeking children can find one quickly. They are able to do so without involving the government and sometimes with the help of middlemen whose activities can be naïve, reckless or illegal, a Reuters investigation has found… Exon grew alarmed on April 5, 2007, when she took a phone call from Lynne Banks, a woman in South Dakota who followed the activity on the online adoption boards. Banks warned of an Illinois couple using the Internet to obtain children. The woman sometimes called herself Big Momma. Her real name was Nicole Eason. In her conversation with Exon, Banks said she believed that Eason and her husband, Calvin, were lying about being approved by the government to take in children. While surfing the Internet, Banks also came to suspect that a man who’d been living with Nicole was possibly a sex offender.

Adoption laws differ from state to state, making it easier for adults to exchange children without oversight and without official vetting of new parents. Click through an extensive Reuters report for more stories about disruptive adoptions, and the middlemen who facilitate the dangerous transactions.

Police escort men (face covered) accused of a gang rape, outside a police station in Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi, August 31, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Indian gang-rapers charged. Four men were convicted of raping and torturing a woman who later died of her injuries, concluding a high-profile case that shed light on sexual violence in the country:

The case has resonated with thousands of urban Indians who took to the streets in fury after the attack. The victim’s path through education onto the first rungs of middle-class life seemed to epitomize the aspirations of millions of young women in a society where many men believe women should stay at home…The verdict capped a seven-month trial, often held behind closed doors, that was punctuated dramatically by a fifth defendant hanging himself in his jail cell. A sixth, who was under 18 at the time of the attack, was earlier sentenced to three years detention, the maximum allowed under juvenile law.

The men face death by hanging, the maximum penalty for murder. The trial judge could decide their sentence as soon as Wednesday.

Nota Bene: Kenya’s deputy president pleads not guilty to charges of crimes against humanity.


Chatty Francis – The Pope is making cold phone calls to strangers. (New York Times)

Nosebleed recess – Chinese authorities close schools after pollution prompts mass nosebleeds. (Global Times)

Beyond poppy – Afghanistan’s cannabis production rises this year. (The Guardian)

Sexy spring – Iran and China see a sexual revolution. (Salon)

Social sentence – In China, 500 retweets could send you to prison. (Quartz)

From the File:

  • Pakistan to free former Taliban second-in-command.
  • Egypt bans mosque preachers in Islamist crackdown.
  • Austria checks suspected weapons of mass destruction proliferation cases.
  • Brazilian president’s popularity recovers after protests.
  • Berlusconi’s allies step up threats to bring down Italy’s government.
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