April 20, 2008

The Pope visits New York

Pope Benedict XVI visited Ground Zero in New York at the end of his six-day tour of the United States, reported the BBC.

There, he greeted survivors, victim relatives and fire and police officials. The pope also offered a prayer for the September 11, 2001 attack victims as well as “those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred.?

Before flying back to the Vatican, the pope will celebrate Mass at New York's Yankees stadium.

April 12, 2008

World peace promoter found murdered

An Italian woman who promoted world peace was found murdered in Turkey, reported the BBC.

The woman, Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo, 33, known as Pippa Bacca, was found in a patch of bushes near the city of Gebze on Friday.

Pippa Bacca had been hitch-hiking from Milan to the Middle East with the artist group “Brides on Tour? to promote world peace.

In an earlier interview, Pippa Bacca said she wanted to show that she could put her trust in the kindness of local people.

According to Turkish police, the man in connection with the killing has been detained.

April 1, 2008

Ukraine bid for NATO membership

According to the BBC, during President George W. Bush’s latest visit to Kiev, Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko told him that he would like Ukraine to become a NATO member.

Bush supports Ukraine’s bid for membership and has said he plans to press NATO allies to support Membership Action Plans for both Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia, however, does not support the membership bid of Ukraine or Georgia.

During a hearing of the lower house of the Russian parliament, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said that Ukrainian membership would “entail a deep crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations.? He added that membership would cause a crisis to pan-European security.

March 28, 2008

Calling Cuba

Cubans will soon be allowed unrestricted access to mobile phones for the first time, reported the BBC.

This is of many reforms announced under President Raul Castro.

A statement given to the newspaper Granma said the state telecom monopoly ETECSA will give the public mobile phone services within the next few days.

Some Cubans already own mobile phones but they had to attain them illegally, usually through foreigners. Now, with the reform, Cubans will be able to subscribe to pre-paid mobile phones services legally, using their own names instead of going through foreigners.

However, the reform calls for the services to be paid for in foreign currency which limits access to poorer citizens.

March 15, 2008

Bomber kills 5 U.S. soldiers

Five American soldiers and three others were killed while on duty in Baghdad Monday when a man walked up to them and detonated the explosives-filled vest he was wearing, reported the New York Times.

According to the article, it was the deadliest single attack on American soldiers in Baghdad since last summer. Among the wounded were nine Iraqi civilians said Yarmuk Hospital officials.

A few hours after the attack, a car bomb outside a hotel in Sulaimaniya exploded. Two people were killed and 30 were wounded.

The two attacks accentuate the weakness of Iraq’s security.

March 8, 2008

Let them eat…bread?

While rising prices for wheat, corn and barley are causing farmers to become optimistic, they are causing pain and panic for global consumers, reported the New York Times.

Throughout the world, the cost of food is rising sharply. Within the last six months the price of wheat has doubled. Continued rising food prices have become one of the most pressing issues in global economics.

The Times reported that one contributor to the rise is “runaway demand.? Developing countries have been growing at a rate of 7 percent a year, a historically unheard of rate, and they want to eat well.

“Everyone wants to eat like an American on this globe,? said Daniel W. Basse of the AgResource Company, a Chicago consultancy. “But if they do, we’re going to need another two or three globes to grow it all.?

In fact, if the demand continues to be as high as it is investors believe that the scarcity and high prices of food will last for years.

March 1, 2008

Gaza bombardment pauses peace talks

Israeli troops entered Gaza Saturday with rockets in response to the bombardment of southern Israel, killing 46 Palestinians, reported the Star Tribune.

At least two dozen civilians died in the fighting bringing the Palestinian death toll to 76 since Wednesday. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia said he believes peace talks will be suspended due to the fighting. “What is happening in Gaza is a massacre of civilians, women and children, a collective killing, genocide,? Qureia said. “We can't bear what the Israelis are doing, and what the Israelis are doing doesn't led [sic] the peace process any credibility.?

Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel, in a meeting Saturday, said talks are “based on the understanding that when advancing the peace process with pragmatic (Palestinian) sources, Israel will continue to fight terror that hurts its people.?

February 24, 2008

Blu-ray wins over HD DVD

Toshiba will no longer produce or market high-definition HD DVD players, reported the Star Tribune.

By making this decision, made by Toshiba Corp. President Atsutoshi Nishida, it means the latest battle between video formats has ended and Blu-ray disc player technology has come out victorious.

The reason Toshiba decided to end the format battle, which had only lasted a few years, was because Hollywood failed to back high-definition HD DVD technology. Warner Bros. Entertainment made the decision last month to release movie discs only in the Blu-ray format. Several other companies soon followed suit including Sony Pictures and Walt Disney Co.

“That had tremendous impact,? Nishida said. “If we had continued, that would have created problems for consumers, and we simply had no chance to win.?

With the introduction of Blu-ray technology, consumers will have to buy new disc players because older DVD players are incompatible with Blu-ray discs. This means retailers will be stocking more Blu-ray disc players and fewer HD DVD players.

Stores such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Blockbuster Inc. have also decided to sell only Blu-ray DVDs thereby dealing a final blow the Toshiba format.

February 17, 2008

Independence day for Kosovo

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia Sunday, reported the New York Times.

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, who was a former guerrilla leader, addressed both the Albanian and Serbian Parliaments.

“I feel the heartbeat of our ancestors,? Thaci said, paying tribute to Kosovo’s war dead and to the European Union and Washington. ?We the leaders of our people, democratically elected, through this declaration proclaim Kosovo an independent and sovereign state.?

Thaci also promised to protect the rights of all Kosovo citizens.

The former province’s independence was greeted with enthusiasm by ethnic Albanians who, according to the New York Times, were flooding into the streets. Some were beating drums and waiving Albanian flags while they chanted “Independence! Independence! We are free at last!?

February 10, 2008

Money makes the world go round

The Star Tribune reported that the Group of Seven industrialized countries met Feb. 2 and promised to work together in order to restore the global market economy.

While no specific solution was agreed on, the G-7 assured the world's biggest economy would grow this year but at a much slower rate.

A key focus of the meeting was to reassure the Group – and the rest of the world – that the United States’ economy was not in a recession.

“I believe that we're going to keep growing,? U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said. “If you're growing, you're not in recession.?

However, the Group speculated that the U.S. had encouraged its trading partners to cut interest rates and start offering tax rebates. Paulson dismissed the speculation.

“Every country's different ... and every country needs to focus on their own economic situation,? he said. “The discussion was on really how do we minimize the spillover from what's going on in the capital markets to the broader global economy.?

The U.S.’s approach involves a $168 billion stimulus package of tax rebates, business tax write-offs and other similar actions.

The European Central Bank and other trading partners, however, did not follow the United States’ lead. This is because they are focused on avoiding inflation rather than stimulating growth, according to Jean-Claude Trichet, the European Central Bank president.

“We will do whatever we need to do to be credible in maintaining price stability in the medium term,? he said.

February 2, 2008

China exports inflation

A falling dollar, rising energy and raw material costs, and new labor laws are the culprits behind increased prices of Chinese exports, the New York Times reported Friday.

“China has been the world’s factory and the anchor of the global disconnect between rising material prices and lower consumer prices,? said Dong Tao, an economist for Credit Suisse. “But its heyday is over. We’re going to see higher prices.?

While the rise last year was fairly insignificant, 2.4 percent, the United States saw an inflation of 4.1 percent because of higher energy and food costs.

With rates just shy of 5 percent, it may be the end of “ultra-cheap goods, as well as the beginning of China’s rise from the lowest rungs of global manufacturing,? said the New York Times.

Some of the goods affected include toys, clothing, and footwear.