Oct 27th 2012 | from the print edition
Lebanon was on the brink after theSyrian regime was widely blamed for a huge bomb in Beirut that killed Brigadier-General Wissam Hassan, the head of internal security, and seven others. Ten people died in sectarian clashes following the explosion. See article
The United Nations’ envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said that President Bashar Assad’s government and most rebel leaders had agreed to abide by a ceasefire during the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Sudan accused Israel of an air raid on an arms factory in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Israel did not comment, though it is known to blame Sudan for allegedly letting arms pass through en route to Gaza.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was barred from visiting Evin prison in Tehran, the capital, where a close aide is imprisoned. Some saw this as a sign of tension among the country’s leaders.
Forces loyal to the Libyan government took control of most of Bani Walid, a former stronghold of Muammar Qaddafi, while pockets of resistance were reported on the town’s outskirts.
Into the lion’s den
Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, launched a charm offensive in Germany to persuade sceptical politicians about the merits of the ECB’s bond-buying scheme. Speaking to members of the Bundestag, Mr Draghi argued that it was necessary to save the euro and gave assurances that it would not lead to runaway inflation. One politician praised him as “a Prussian from southern Europe”.
Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, was buoyed up by a regional election in Galicia, where his ruling People’s Party extended its majority as the Socialists’ vote collapsed. Mr Rajoy claimed the result was evidence of broad support for his austerity programme. Protests continued outside parliament.
Meanwhile, nationalist parties in Spain’sBasque country gained seats in a regional election. Emboldened by the result, the nationalists may push for a referendum on independence, which would further complicate any potential bail-out request from Spain. An election in Catalonia on November 25th already threatens to turn into a referendum on independence there.See article
To the relief of many, Silvio Berlusconi said he would not run again for prime minister. His People of Liberty party will choose a new leader in December. See article
An Italian judge sentenced six scientists and a public official to six years in jail on manslaughter charges for misleading the public about the risk of an earthquake days before one hit L’Aquila in April 2009, killing 309 people. He also ordered them to pay compensation to the families of 29 victims who died because they heeded the scientists’ advice not to leave their homes. Many observers fear the verdict will inhibit public discussion of scientific risks. See article
The vital centre
America’s presidential candidates discussed foreign policy at their final debate. As in their previous two encounters Mitt Romney ditched many of the severely conservative positions he took on the campaign trail. Polls suggested that Barack Obama won the debate, but the race is close with the momentum still swinging towards the challenger.See article
One endorsement that Mr Romney didn’t get was from the Salt Lake Tribune. Utah’s biggest newspaper reasoned that although he is the state’s “favourite adopted son”, his “servile courtship of the tea party” and failure “to share specifics of his radical plan” meant that it would back Mr Obama (as it did in 2008).
The Republicans’ chances of winning the Senate were hurt by more remarks on women and rape from one of their candidates, this time in Indiana. Richard Mourdock, who defeated Richard Lugar in May’s primary, said that a pregnancy that resulted from rape was “something that God intended to happen”.
Breach of the peace
In Myanmar the authorities imposed a night-time curfew in parts of western Rakhine state, after violence flared again between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. Four people were killed and 1,000 houses burned down. More than 100 have been killed this year, mostly Rohingyas, with little official condemnation. See article
The prime minister of Japan, Yoshihiko Noda, came under yet more pressure to call a general election following the resignation of his justice minister, who had been in the job for less than a month. A magazine article alleged that Keishu Tanaka had ties with theyakuza, the Japanese mafia.
Shintaro Ishihara, the 80-year-old governor of Tokyo who provoked a row with China by seeking to buy disputed islands on behalf of the metropolitan government, announced that he is stepping down to set up a party to run for parliament in the next elections. He is the latest maverick to seek to capitalise on voter dissatisfaction with Japan’s two main political parties.
A court in Cambodia ordered the deportation of a Chinese factory supervisor after she defaced two photographs of the late former king, Norodom Sihanouk. She had grown impatient at how garment workers had broken off from their tasks to admire the portraits. In her defence, she said she did not know who was depicted.
Margin of error
Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, announced the creation of an independent statistics agency. The move followed opposition claims that the government had manipulated a survey concerning the poverty rate in the country.
Argentina evacuated 281 crew members from a naval frigate that is being detained in Ghana. A hedge fund that owns defaulted Argentine debt obtained a legal order to hold the vessel, a 50-year-old tall ship. Argentina says it will not pay the $20m court bond the fund demands.
Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba, published an article in the state newspaper and released recent photos of himself in response to rumours that he was near death.