Around the World

News from around the globe impacting your world.

Japan Raises Nuclear Crisis to Highest Level. Japan raised the crisis level at its crippled nuclear plant Tuesday to a severity on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing high overall radiation leaks that have contaminated the air, tap water, vegetables and seawater. More on this story from the Mainichi Daily News and from the BBC.

In related news, Japan's Economic minister says the damage to the country's economy from last month's earthquake and tsunami is worse than first thought. Economic minister Kaoru Yosano said the blow to the Japanese economy is "larger than our original expectations" which were originally estimated at $295 billion dollars. The International Monetary Fund has lowered its 2011 economic growth forecast for Japan, the world's third biggest economy, from 1.6 percent to 1.4 percent. But one economic research company (Capital Economics) says Japan's economy may shrink by 1.5 percent this year. The Voice of America has a full report on the economic impact while Germany's Der Spiegel files a story comparing the northeast of Japan to the Roman ruins of Pompei.

The Libyan Conflict. The rebel held Libyan city of Misurata has come under heavy fire hours after Gaddafi said he would agree to a ceasefire. Meanwhile, Alain Juppé, the French Foreign Minister, says alliance should be doing more to take out heavy weaponry targeting civilians in Misurata. More from Al Jazeera.

Côte d'Ivoire President Urges Reconciliation. In a television address to the nation, President Alassane Ouattara calls on fighters in the Côte d'Ivoire to lay down their arms and promises dignified treatment for Laurent Gbagbo now in custody. The story in The Guardian.

Hosni Mubarak Hospitalized. Former Egyptian President currently under house arrest at his resort home at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula has been hospitalized. No details yet as to the cause. Mubarak is 82. Meanwhile, Egypt's Prime Minister Essam Sharaf on Tuesday said that legal steps were underway to probe veracity of charges of corruption and excesses against the deposed leader. The Times of India files a report.

Inflation in the UK Drops Unexpectedly. The Bank of England reported  that Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate of inflation in the United Kingdom was 4 percent in March, down from 4.4 percent in February. The figures came as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed the biggest sales drop in its 16-year history, with total sales in March dropping 1.9% on a year ago. The full story from The Independent.

Around the World

News from around the globe impacting your world.

Portugal Seeks Relief for Its Troubled Banks. The caretaker government of Socialist Prime Minister José Socrates announced he was asking for financing from the European Union on Wednesday, saying the risks to the economy had now become too great to go it alone as borrowing rates soared in recent weeks. More from Reuters.

China Levels Charges Against Dissident. Ai Weiwei, best known for designing the 'Bird's Nest' stadium for the 2008 Olympics, has been charged with "economic crimes" by Chinese authorities. The 53 year old artist was seized by border police Sunday at the Beijing airport as he prepared to board a flight to Hong Kong. He is the latest dissident detained in a series of arrests that began in February. Other high-profile dissidents held by Chinese authorities include Noble Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo and blind activist Chen Guangcheng. More from the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has called upon Beijing to ease its crackdown against political dissidents. Speaking on Sino-US ties at a function held in Shanghai Wednesday, Huntsman said there was room for improvement in bilateral diplomatic ties. He said US envoys to Beijing would continue to speak out publicly in support of dissidents activists Ai Weiwei and others. More on this side of the story from RTT News.

French Forces in Côte d'Ivoire Fighting. French forces hit military vehicles belonging to troops loyal to strongman Laurent Gbagbo during a helicopter-borne mission that rescued Japan's ambassador to the West African country today after Gbagbo's soldiers broke into the residence of Ambassador Yoshifumi Okamura. The full story in The Independent.

India Opens Talks with Japan. India and Japan today started an economic-strategic talks that promises to have important strategic ramifications regarding balancing China. More from The Times of India.

China's Bubble Economy. The Asia Sentinel examines the Chinese economy warning that an inevitable slowdown will affect the entire world – from commodity producers to governments issuing debt. The ramifications of a meaningful slowdown in Chinese economic activity are profound, ranging from the risk of widespread social instability to a collapse of several commodity markets.

Bank of England Holds Rate Steady. The Bank of England kept its benchmark interest rate at 0.5 percent, a record low for the 26th consecutive month, as policy makers judged the need to aid the recovery took precedence over the fastest inflation in more than two years. More from Bloomberg News.

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