Leaked Emails Show Syrian First Couple Ignoring Bloodshed in Country

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma, after voting on a referendum for a new constitution last month. / REUTERS

A cache of some 3,000 emails said to be from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, obtained by The Guardian, show Syria’s first couple as largely disregarding the bloodshed raging in their home country.

The emails, many of which coincide with the Syrian military’s crackdown on pro-democracy protestors, show Asma al-Assad, who signed her emails “aaa,” as enjoying Internet shopping sprees. She ordered jewelry from a small Paris atelier, an expensive vase from Harrod’s and mused over bling-studded shoes from a special private line of Christian Louboutin.

Bashar al-Assad comes across as self-pitying and insulated from the bloodshed he was unleashing on his country, and relying closely on Iran. In one email to his wife, Assad sends a YouTube link and lyrics to a country western song by Blake Shelton, which laments, “The person that I’ve been lately/ain’t who I wanna be.”

Increasingly, seems he’s not the man Syrians want him to be, either.

Sweep to Exclusive: secret Assad emails lift lid on  life of leader’s inner circle

Another pain in the neck for Gloria Arroyo. / REUTERS

The former first couple of the Philippines, Gloria and Mike Arroyo, faced an order of arrest by the nation’s anti-corruption court Tuesday. They are charged with graft in connection with a $330 million contract to build a National Broadband Network in the Philippines.

The contract with China’s ZTE Corp. to build a high-speed communications system linking government offices at the national and local levels originally came in at $130 million. But it swelled by $200 million–allegedly the result of top government officials demanding payoffs.

In 2008, Gloria Arroyo, then president, canceled the contract in the face of a Senate inquiry that proved kickbacks to government officials had inflated the price.

Gloria Arroyo, who is frequently seen in a neck brace these days, had asked to be allowed to apply for bail from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where she is being held before trial on electoral fraud charges. Her husband posted bail Tuesday and was released ahead of trial. The couple denies any wrongdoing, and have said they are the victims of a political vendetta by the current president, Benigno Aquino III.

Sweep to Arroyo couple, 2 others ordered arrested over NBN deal

Burma’s government is pledging a new-found openness to democracy, but hasn’t quite gotten the hang of free speech.

Its Ministry of Mining has vowed to sue a Rangoon-based journal, The Voice Weekly, for reporting on allegations of corruption within the ministry. In a statement, the ministry denied the accusations, and said the report “tarnishes the dignity of the ministry and [that it] is not ethical for the media to write like this.”

The allegations were contained in a government audit taken up by the lower house of Burma’s parliament. The audit said the at the mining ministry had sold 50 percent of a copper mining project to one company for $100 million, but that another company had actually made the payment.

It also alleged corruption in five other government ministries, none of which plans to sue.

Sweep to Burmese ministry vows to sue over graft allegations

As the director of international relations for Haiti’s minister for telecommunications, Jean Rene Duperval officially earned $25,000 a year. But that money was chump change in comparison to the bribes his office allowed Duperval to collect.

This week, a Miami jury convicted Duperval of pocketing some $500,000 in bribes from two Miami companies with contracts to provide long-distance service to Haiti. With the money, Duperval paid for his home in Miramar, and made deposits to his children’s prepaid college tuition plans.

The bribes, paid by executives at Terra Telecommunicaitons and Cinergy Telecommunications, won the companies better terms for their long-distance rates.

Duperval, who was convicted on 21 counts related to money laundering, faces up to 20 years in prison.

Sweep to Miami jury convicts former Haiti official on bribery charges

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.