Weekly Briefing

Kyrgyzstan: riot starter

"These 300-500 people must be well equipped . . . We must tell each of them: 'Here is two or three thousand for you. If you do it, you'll be given the same amount again.'" If Maxim Bakiyev, son of Kyrgyzstan's deposed president, did give these furtive instructions, recorded during a tapped telephone call, it is going to be very hard to overturn the charges against him. The interim government accuses him of orchestrating the riots that have displaced a quarter-million Uzbeks resident in Kyrgyzstan and killed almost 200, in an attempt to derail a constitutional referendum due on 27 June.

Bakiyev Jr flew to the UK on 13 June to claim asylum, but the Kyrgyz government has called for his extradition. It insists that the referendum will go ahead.

US: Oval Office speech

Following two days spent visiting Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, President Barack Obama returned to the White House to address
the nation over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In the first Oval Office address of his presidency, he pledged to "make BP pay" and to "do whatever's necessary" to help the Gulf recover. But with little concrete detail about fixing the region's problems, the speech was never going to be popular.

The president's critics also questioned the need for his visit to the Gulf, but there, at least, he could provide hands-on support. According to reports, he put his mouth where the government's money will, it is hoped, end up - helping local traders by consuming large quantities of fried shrimp, crab cakes, crawfish tails and seafood salad.

Romania: wet protests

Even in the 38°C summer heat of 14 June, Bucharest's police probably weren't thrilled to have buckets of water flung at them. But then again, the thousands of people protesting against the government's austerity measures - which will cut pensions by 15 per cent and public-sector wages by 25 per cent - weren't in the best of moods either. Pensioners told reporters that they are already desperate and struggling to pay for food and medicines.

The protest was a reprise of mass demonstrations in May, and coincided with a no-confidence vote against the government.
But with a safe majority, the government survived. The cuts will survive, too, so that the country can meet payments for the €20bn IMF loan it received in March.

Prime Minister Emil Boc called the cuts the "lesser of two evils". The other option is not paying pensions or wages at all.

Iran: ships to Gaza

Just as Israel consented to allow thousands of tonnes of aid into Gaza from the flotilla on which nine activists were killed, progress has ground to a halt. Iran has said it will shortly send two supply ships to Gaza, through Egyptian waters, and those around Gaza - which are under Israel's control.

Israel had reportedly been considering easing the blockade on the Strip. Bans on goods such as ketchup, fruit juice, needles and thread had been lifted. But Israel is suspicious of Iran: discussions have returned to the smuggling of "deadly weapons, rockets and missiles that are used against the people of Israel". Once again, the region is back where it started.

South Africa: horns

If there's one thing the vuvuzela - the South African horn that has provided the droning soundtrack to the summer so far - is good at creating, it's statistics. Sainsbury's sells 22,000 in 12 hours! One million iPhone vuvuzela app downloads! Days after the World Cup kicked off, 545 complaints
to the BBC!

If there's another thing the glorified plastic tubes can create, it's a good myth. Rich Mkhondo, Fifa spokesman, has solemnly explained to disgruntled critics that the vuvuzela is "traditional". But the South African sports broadcaster Thabiso Tema reckons the horns have been around for "ten years - at the very most".

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