RUSSIA – Election seen as test for Putin

Moscow | Russians from the Bering Strait to the Baltic Sea voted in regional elections Sunday, the last big test for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ruling party before December parliamentary polls and a presidential vote next March.

With critics at home and abroad accusing Mr. Putin of rolling back democracy and muzzling opponents, however, some analysts said the Kremlin wants a cleaner vote that would bolster the legitimacy of his “tandem” rule with President Dmitry Medvedev.

United Russia, which Mr. Putin uses as both a source and a instrument of power, is expected to maintain majorities in the 12 regional legislatures at stake, despite sagging support.

The Kremlin will use the elections to gauge the mood ahead of the parliamentary polls and the March 2012 presidential vote, in which Mr. Putin has suggested he will return to the Kremlin or endorse incumbent Mr. Medvedev for a new term.

INDIA – India’s weapons imports now largest in the world

New Delhi | In its race to join the club of international powers, India has reached another milestone – it’s now the world’s largest weapons importer.

A Swedish think tank that monitors global arms sales said Monday that India’s weapons imports has overtaken China’s, as the South Asian nation pushes ahead with plans to modernize its military, counter Beijing’s influence and gain international clout.

According to the report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India accounted for 9 percent of all international arms imports in the period from 2006 to 2010, and it is expected to keep the top spot for the foreseeable future.

Indian Defense Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar declined to comment on the report before he had a chance to read it.

The United States was the largest arms exporter, followed by Russia and Germany, according to the report.

NEW ZEALAND China wants ‘one-child’ compensation over quake

Wellington | A Chinese official said Monday that New Zealand should consider special compensation to parents of Chinese students killed in an earthquake last month because their loss was magnified under the country’s one-child policy.

Seven students from China have been identified among the 166 confirmed deaths in the quake that devastated Christchurch city on Feb. 22, and as many as 20 others are still missing.

Chinese Embassy official Cheng Lei said Monday that Chinese quake victims had lost not just their only child, but also a future breadwinner.

He said New Zealand should consider providing additional financial assistance to those families.

“You can expect how lonely, how desperate they are … not only from losing loved ones, but losing almost entirely the major source of economic assistance after retirement,” Cheng told Radio New Zealand.

Such compensation would be consolation for the families of the victims “but also a demonstration of the importance the New Zealand government attaches to the Chinese international” students, he said.

New Zealand tertiary education minister Steven Joyce said insurance and other payments were being made to survivors and relatives of victims of the quake, but that it would be difficult under New Zealand law to provide special compensation to one group of victims.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at: and San Jose on March 13th, and on March 14th.)


A large majority of responses to our question last week about whether we should reduce the number of Tuesday News Briefs from 5 countries to 3 countries were in favor of three.  We’ll try this out for a few weeks.  Let us know how this works for you. Send your thoughts to

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) the continent on which it is located
b) the name of the capital city
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent]e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country: type of government, capital and executive branch (chief of state/head of government) can be found under the “Government” heading; population is listed under the “People” heading.  Go to for a list of continents.]

2. For Russia:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why were the regional elections in Russia significant?

3. For India:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What reasons are given for India’s push to import a large amount of weapons?

4. For New Zealand:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) A reader to a New Zealand newspaper commented: “[The Chinese government wants us to give extra compensation to the families in China?] Does that mean we then can make a claim against the Chinese government for job losses due to cheap Chinese imports, a direct result of Chinese government policy unlike the earthquake which is an act of God? I do feel for the Chinese families but believe the Chinese government should care for their own.” Do you agree with this reader? Why or why not?
c) Families of all of the victims will receive compensation. Do you think New Zealand’s government should give extra money to the parents of Chinese students who were at school in New Zealand because they only had one child?  Explain your answers.


RUSSIA: On Vladimir Putin:

  • Vladimir Putin (born in 1952) was the second President of the Russian Federation and is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus.
  • Putin was an officer in the KGB (Russian secret police) from 1975-1992.
  • Putin became acting President on December 31, 1999, when president Boris Yeltsin resigned.
  • Putin won the 2000 presidential election and in 2004 he was re-elected for a second term lasting until May 7, 2008.
  • Due to constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term.
  • After the victory of his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in the 2008 presidential elections, he was nominated by the latter to be Russia’s Prime Minister; Putin took the post on May 8, 2008. (from wikipedia) 

(NEW ZEALAND) – China’s one-child policy:

  • The one-child policy refers to the one-child limitation on most families in the population control policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
  • The Chinese government policy officially restricts the number of children married urban couples can have to one, although it allows exemptions [to have 2] for several cases, including rural couples, ethnic minorities, and parents without any siblings themselves.
  • A spokesperson of the Committee on the One-Child Policy has said that approximately 35.9% of China’s population is currently subject to the one-child restriction.
  • The policy was introduced in 1978 and initially applied to [all couples] first-born children in the year of 1979 [with the exception of Communist party leaders]
  • It was created by the Chinese government to [slow the population growth in China], and authorities claim that the policy has prevented between 250 and 300 million births from its implementation until 2000, and 400 million births from 1979 to 2010.
  • The policy is controversial both within and outside China because of the manner in which the policy has been implemented, and because of concerns about negative social consequences. (from wikipedia)
  • The policy has been implicated in an increase in forced abortions, female infanticide, and underreporting of female births, and has [caused] China’s gender imbalance.


Go to for country maps.

Get Free Answers

Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.