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In brief: Bribery rampant in Afghanistan

From Wire Reports

London – Half of all Afghan adults paid at least one bribe to a public official over the course of a year to cut through red tape or get help with poor service, the U.N. said Tuesday in a report that documents the extraordinary depth of corruption in Afghanistan.

Afghans paid nearly $2.5 billion in bribes – worth almost a quarter of the country’s GDP – in the 12-month period ending last autumn.

The average bribe cost $160 – a hefty sum in a country with a per capita income of nearly $500, according to the report, based on interviews with thousands of people across Afghanistan.

Most of those surveyed said they could not expect a single public service without paying favors. Many felt it was “normal” to pay extra for services, better treatment or avoiding fines.

Bribes were requested and taken by politicians, prosecutors, tax officers – anyone with even the most modest level of power to yield.

Eight arrested in church bombing

Kuala Lumpur, Malasia – Malaysian police announced today the arrest of eight suspects believed to have participated in a firebomb attack on a Christian church.

The arrests are the first in connection to a spate of assaults on churches amid religious tensions between the ethnic Malay Muslim majority and the Christian minority.

The unrest follows a Dec. 31 court ruling that allowed non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” to refer to God.

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