An Arizonan atheist arouses controversy by praying in the "wrong" manner in the state's legislature. The Egyptian government cracks down on religious and ideological opponents. And the Chinese government makes a pivot towards Africa in its drive to increase its influence abroad. It's Fiery Tuesday, our weekly segment on societal and political news from around the world! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

Is there a wrong way to pray? According to religious members of the Arizonan state legislature, there is. Several voiced complaints when an atheist member, Juan Mendez, was asked to deliver a prayer and did so without invoking God, instead appealing to the beauty of Arizona's "multicultural" and "pluralistic society." You can read more about the dispute at The Huffington Post.

Brazil is one of the largest economies in not only South America but the world as well, ranking above Italy, India, and Russia in the size of its economy. It's significant then that the country is now being rocked by what can only be called a grave economic scandal with the revelation of bribery and corruption surrounding the country's former president and its leading oil producer. The scandal is now rocking the current administration, with calls for President Dilma Rousseff to stand down.

Since the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, the Egyptian people have been caught between two unpalatable alternatives: military rule or religious authoritarianism. Now, it seems, the difference between the two is disappearing. With the conviction of Egyptian artists and intellectuals for such offenses as "sexually shameless literature," the military-run government in Egypt seems more and more inclined to use religious authority to prop it up. The German Muslim news site Qantara has more details here.

It's common knowledge by now that China is well on its way to surpassing the United States as the world's largest economy. Also well-known is the country's desire to be taken seriously as a superpower and to exert its influence abroad. And one of the locations China is looking to is Africa, where the country hopes to establish military bases and economic agreements that will increase its global reach.

China's not alone though. It's neighbor and longtime rival, Japan, is also hoping to expand its presence in Africa. Japanese television network NHK covers the increase in interest and investment by Japanese companies, partially in response to China's own overtures.

Top image by Leandro Ciuffo