Chinese flagBanks in China allow American customers to buy and to hold Chinese yuan. A state-owned Chinese bank in New York has begun to offer its customers accounts denominated in yuan, a move calculated to expand the global reach of their currency. Daniel Hui, a foreign exchange analyst for the HSBC Bank in Hong Kong, explains that the Chinese government is “trying to expand the scope of people who can hold renminbi [yuan] and that increases demand.” Most economists believe it will take years before the yuan is an international currency on the same level as the dollar, the euro, or the yen.

The referendum taking place this week in the Southern Sudan on whether the region should remain part of Sudan or become its own independent state has enjoyed a high voter turnout, according to official reports, despite criticism from international communist groups and the Russian and Chinese governments. The region includes Darfur, known to be a hotbed of genocidal activity against the native African population, much of which is Christian, by the majority Sudanese Arab Janjaweed militias. The region has for decades been the scene of policies akin to religious and racially-motivated "ethnic cleansing."

In the aftermath of a Christmas season filled with anti-Christian violence in Nigeria, Iraq, and Egypt, Christian leaders around the world have called for prayers for those undergoing persecution, and have also called upon the governments that have thus far proven impotent to stop such attacks to step up to their responsibility to protect their citizens.

A trend toward gay and lesbian sex in Pakistani society is rapidly emerging among teenage boys and girls.

History is set to be made in Southern Sudan as its people are widely expected to vote for independence from the North in a referendum that is now ongoing. But tensions are intensifying along the proposed border, which runs through some of the most fertile land in the country.