GlobalPost’s Dan Peleschuk visited the Ukraine protests’ base of operations in Kyiv.
By Tuesday evening, anti-government demonstrators effectively controlled much of downtown Kyiv and forced the partial closure of Kreshchatyk, the city’s main street.
They continued to occupy several key administrative buildings, including city hall — the site of a makeshift “revolutionary headquarters” where volunteers distribute food, warm clothing and medicine to fellow protesters.
Around-the-clock demonstrators have also erected barricades around Independence Square — the nucleus of the Orange Revolution as well as the current protests — while others roam freely around the streets housing most of the central government’s main buildings.
Several thousand gathered outside parliament during Tuesday’s session, some huddled around parked cars listening to a live feed of the proceedings.
On Independence Square, trash-barrel fires and army-green tents erected to provide warmth for protesters are lending a revolutionary feel to this bustling and brightly lit former city.
Graffiti have appeared on walls and sidewalks, some reading “Away with Yanukovych” and “Revolution.”
Follow him on Instagram for more pictures from the scene.
BERLIN, Germany — Streams of cars flash through the busy Nollendorf intersection as young prostitutes dressed in skin-tight hotpants and stilettos flag down drivers, dragging deeply on cigarettes or chatting on mobile phones.
Hailing from Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, few speak English. But they know why they’re in Germany.
“Street prostitution is legal here,” says a tall, spindly woman from Hungary. “I’m doing this because I have to send money home to my family.”
A decade after Germany legalized big-money brothels and recognized prostitutes’ rights as workers in some of the world’s most liberal prostitution laws, business is booming. Organized sex workers say the trade is safer and healthier than ever.
But now a surprise campaign by the country’s most prominent feminist is invigorating longtime enemies of the oldest profession who argue that the changes have turned Berlin and other towns into city-sized discount stores for sex.
Germany’s legalized sex industry is booming
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
→ Narendra Modi: Nightmare or savior for India’s struggling economy?
With India’s growth slowing and the rupee losing 20 percent of its value since May, India’s middle classes seem prepared to overlook Narendra Modi’s reputation for divisiveness — if he can rescue the economy. Commentators sense that Modi’s campaign is gathering momentum while his rival, the Congress candidate Rahul Gandhi, remains in the doldrums.
The possibility of Modi becoming prime minister is even being credited with boosting the stock markets. And Congress leaders were very upset recently when investment bank Goldman Sachs suggested that a “business-friendly” BJP coalition might win the general election, calling Modi an “agent of change.”
So why exactly do investors like Narendra Modi? GlobalPost interviewed Ritika Mankar Mukherjee, an economist with Ambit Capital, one of India’s leading financial services companies.
The social and economic changes unveiled by China on Friday have been hailed as the boldest and most significant changes in the communist country in decades.
The measures include pledges to loosen the controversial one-child policy, abolish labor camps, speed up residential registration, or hukou, system reforms and let the market play a "decisive role" in the world’s second largest economy.
The sweeping changes were contained in a document released by the Communist Party following a four-day meeting of senior leaders in Beijing. The more-than-20,000 Chinese character statement listed 60 reforms.
Chinese leaders have a penchant for gradualism, and reforms, particularly of this magnitude, typically take years — if not decades — to implement. President Xi Jinping and his colleagues have given themselves until 2020 to achieve "decisive" results.
GlobalPost asked Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Nicholas Bequelin, senior researcher in the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, for their views on the significance of the reforms.
China’s reforms: ‘An important step, but not the end of the road’
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
HONG KONG — If anyone claims they can tell you what really happened at the all-important meeting of China’s decision makers that ended Tuesday, don’t believe them.
Even under ordinary circumstances, interpreting Chinese politics is notoriously difficult. The system is opaque and convoluted, with ritualized language, cookie-cutter leaders and lots of befuddling slogans — see “The Three Represents.”
But the communiqué released Tuesday evening after a four-day conclave of top Party officials may be a high-water mark of mind-numbing vagueness.
For months, experts have breathlessly speculated and debated that this meeting, the Third Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, would result in massively important, wide-ranging new policies. Everything from breaking up state-owned enterprises to abolishing the one-child policy seemed to be on the table.
Yet now that the agenda has been released—a 5,000 character document (3,500 words in English translation)—we are almost exactly where we started. The only concrete announcement was the creation of two committees, one overseeing national security, the other overseeing reform.
Beyond that, nobody knows where China is headed. Nobody knows if much-needed economic and political policies are progressing or stalling.
China’s Third Party Plenum — a masterpiece of vagueness
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
AHMEDABAD, India — For any world-class politician, an articulate, telegenic or otherwise appealing spouse is an obvious asset. Think Carla Bruni, Peng Liyuan or even Hillary Clinton.
But the man who many believe will become India’s prime minister after the May 2014 elections has an unusual relationship with his wife.
They are still married, but decades of silence separate them. They have not spoken in 45 years, her family told GlobalPost.
That’s not to say Jashodaben Modi would describe herself as estranged from her husband, Narendra Modi.
On the contrary, she is highly devoted to the energetic, charismatic politician from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mrs. Modi rises at 5 a.m. daily and heads to her village temple to pray that her husband and his party win next year’s parliamentary vote.
The 63-year-old retired schoolteacher even attends her husband’s rallies — incognito, in case his political allies or opponents recognize her.
Narendra Modi could be India’s next prime minister. So why won’t he talk to his wife?
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
We’ve been eating our people’s food, and now our people, our nation, is experiencing injustice, so we can stand and help them.
Both the monks and the people are waking up now.
Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon | Credit: AFP/Getty Images
France: Friends with the Front?
Talk of a rapprochement within the far right is dividing French conservatives.
by Paul Ames
BRUSSELS, Belgium — With Socialist President Francois Hollande’s approval ratings close to a record low of just 23 percent, you’d think France’s main opposition group would find reason to be cheerful.
Instead, mainstream conservatives have found themselves gloomily divided over how to defend their voter base against a growing threat from the hard-line National Front (FN) as the center-right prepares for its first major electoral test since its defeat by Hollande last year.
The National Front’s rise in the polls ahead of nationwide municipal elections in the spring has placed the main center-right party, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), in a bind.
The party is split between those hoping to win back votes by co-opting the Front’s nationalist and anti-immigration agenda, and moderates seeking the regain control of the political middle ground.
That rift has been laid bare by former UMP Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who has suggested the center-right should end a long-standing policy of boycotting the National Front.
In town hall elections where the choice is between Socialist and far-right candidates, Fillon said UMP supporters should vote for the “least sectarian” candidate — overturning the party line, which urges abstention rather than a vote for the FN.
Fillon’s comment brought a storm of protest from the left as well as moderates on the right, but polls showed 72 percent of UMP supporters agreed.
"Their problem is that if the left is losing, it’s not necessarily the UMP that’s winning," says Olivier Rouquan, senior lecturer at the French Higher Institute of Public and Political Management.
"The National Front is out there and the UMP is fearful of stagnating," he said in an interview from Paris. "They worry over what to do about an electorate that is radicalizing. Fillon’s declaration aims to mobilize those in the UMP who fear the party is too moderate, not far enough on the right."
Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta (L) and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi before Wednesday’s confidence vote at the Parliament. Credit: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images
Italy breathes again
Berlusconi suffers blow after backing down over threat to bring down government.
by Paul Ames
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Silvio Berlusconi has backed away from his threat to topple Italy’s coalition government in a humiliating political climbdown on Wednesday.
The billionaire former prime minister who has dominated Italian politics for two decades was forced into the last minute U-turn by a revolt that threatened to shatter his conservative party.
"Italy needs a government that can produce structural and institutional reforms," Berlusconi said during a dramatic debate in the Senate. "We have decided, not without internal strife, to back the confidence vote."
The decision enabled center-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta to win that vote of confidence with a large majority. That means his coalition government, formed with Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party (PdL) and a smaller centrist group, will survive.
Letta’s 235-70 win brought relief to capitals across Europe and the financial markets, which feared the collapse of Letta’s government would plunge the euro zone’s third-largest economy into turmoil as it seeks to claw its way out of a prolonged economic crisis.
"Good news from Rome for Italy and Europe with threat against Letta government averted," tweeted Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose center-right party is a nominal ally of Berlusconi’s PdL in the European Parliament.
Milan’s stock exchange rose on the news and the crucial rates Italy must pay on its massive debt declined.
The flip-flop is a clear blow to Berlusconi that has shaken his political authority and undermines his position as puppet-master of the PdL ministers in government. He looked shaken after making his short speech and was consoled by close allies.
However, it could also grant him a political lifeline by keeping the party together as he fights to prevent his ejection from the Senate following a conviction for tax fraud.
A jet approaches Mumbai’s airport. A weaker rupee means cheaper travel for tourists. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Who wins from India’s economic decline?
With the rupee’s slide, politicians, tourists and some businesses stand to profit.
by James Tapper
NEW DELHI, India — In almost every crisis, someone stands to profit.
The Indian rupee has dropped sharply in recent months, sliding from 54 at the start of 2013 to an all-time low of nearly 69.
Although the currency has recovered somewhat, the decline has harmed India’s fragile economy, and cost some investors a fortune. The country relies heavily on imported oil, and a weaker rupee means higher energy bills for consumers and businesses.
But for many exporters, call centers and travel companies, the rupee’s slide is good news — for the most part.
And the big winners in the rupee’s 20 percent fall against the US dollar since May come from a far more surprising constituency: Politicians.
India’s main political parties are believed to have placed their electoral war-chests off shore — away from the prying eyes of tax inspectors and election monitors in advance of the general election, likely to be called for May 2014.
“Political parties who have stashed the money away for precisely this purpose are now bringing it in,” Professor Jayati Ghosh told the Global Post. “These are big gainers. For the same $100,000 they are getting a lot more rupees.”
For the last general election in 2009, India’s political parties spent about $2 billion, of which a quarter was spent on buying votes for cash, according to the Centre for Media Studies, a Delhi-based think tank.
This time around voters seem even greedier, according to politicians. Some are apparently demanding a “red note” of 1,000 rupees to buy their support.
In June, a senior opposition politician was caught on camera complaining he had spent 80 million rupees to get elected – about $1.65 million back in 2009. At today’s rates that would be 105 million rupees, 26 times the maximum sum of 4 million rupees ($63,000) that candidates are allowed to spend.
Money accumulated from bribes and kickbacks can be hidden off-shore either through shell companies and bogus contracts or through “hawala”— an illegal Indian network used to transfer money without using banks.