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December 14, 2008

Indian Planes 'Accidentally' Entered Pakistani Airspace

According to Pakistani officials, Indian warplanes entered Pakistani airforce near the alleged location of the group responsible for the Mumbai attacks last week, reported The New York Times.

Pakistan's Information Minister Sherry Rehman said Pakistan's airforce were on the alert, but did not believe the airspace infraction would lead to a conflict, reported BBC News.

Relations between the two countries, which have always been strained, are particularly shaky after the attack in Mumbai which led to the deaths of 170 people. Pakistan's intelligence agency has openly aided Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the November attacks.

Pakistan reported that they had already contacted Indian officials about the airspace crossover and were assured the incident was accidental.

India denied any wrongdoing in the incident, saying they did not fly into Pakistani airspace.

December 7, 2008

Teenager's Death Sparks Riots In Greece

Hundreds of students, angry over the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy, rioted Saturday and into Sunday, reported The New York Times.

"It's not the first time. They always kill people - immigrants, innocent people - and without any excuse," a protester said. "They murdered him in cold blood."

The riots began just hours after police shot 15-year-old Andreas Grigoropoulos in the Exarchia district in Athens, an area rife with conflicts between police and far-left youth.

In the worst riots Greece has seen in 15 years, hundreds of rioters smashed store fronts, damaged parked cars, and even set a car showroom on fire. As riot police fired tear gas at the group, the youth returned fire with petrol bombs, reported BBC News.

The rioters retreated to the Polytechnic campus for the night where police are not allowed entrance.

At least 34 people have been injured as riots resumed in Athens and in neighboring cities on Sunday.

Greece's minister of the interior, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, condemned the shooting and offered Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis his resignation who promptly rejected it. Pavlopoulos also called for peace in the cities.

"It is everyone's right to demonstrate and to advocate for their rights," Pavlopoulos said. "But I stress, not by destroying the property of others, not turning against people who are not to blame for anything."

November 30, 2008

Pirates Continue Control of Somali Waters

Despite efforts from a German military helicopter, Somali pirates hijacked another ship off the Gulf of Aden on Friday, reported the New York Times.

Even with trained security personnel on board the ship, pirates were able to capture a Liberian chemical tanker using small boats and daring tactics, seizing the ship before German forces arrived on the scene.

Pirates in the area are also responsible for capturing a Saudi oil tanker carrying $100 million in cargo a month ago. They also captured a Ukrainian vessel carrying 33 tanks and other weapons in September.

Negotiations are in progress for the release of both ships, reported BBC News.

A pirate spokesman said it would only be "a matter of time" before the Ukrainian vessel would be released, adding that a payment amount for the ship was agreed upon.

Pirates continue to hold over a dozen ships in a secluded bay near Somalia, controlling waters near the Gulf of Aden.

November 23, 2008

Chavez, Allies Face Challenges in Elections

Voters headed to the polls in Venezuela to elect governors and mayors on Sunday as President Hugo Chavez said he would accept the victories of his political opponents, reported BBC News.

Chavez's willingness to concede the potential defeats of his political allies is a departure from his earlier, more hostile responses to opposition, threatening earlier in the year to send troops to Carabobo, a state where political opposition to the president is gaining power, reported The New York Times.

Chavez is facing a growing opposition because of high murder rates and food inflation, both of which were hot campaign issues. Additionally, Chavez's proclivity for blaming past governments and the United States for Venezuela's problems have turned some voters off.

However, Chavez and his allies do enjoy majority popular support largely because Venezuela's huge oil profits are spent on schools, subsidizing food and other social welfare programs.

"I know in my heart that Chávez cares about the poor,? said Miroslava Toro, 35, a resident of Petare, who voted for Chavez's allies.

Experts are not expecting Chavez to all but sweep the elections the way he did in 2004, but his United Socialist Party of Venezuela is expected to carry the majority of the country's 23 states.

While voting went smoothly for the most part, a few states did report minor technical glitches with electronic voting machines.

November 16, 2008

Exlied Tibetan Leaders Meet to Discuss China

Hundreds of exiled Tibetan leaders descended on northern India on Sunday for a meeting to discuss their campaign for autonomy from China, reported BBC News.

The week long meeting in Dharamsala in northern India was called by the Dalai Lama in order to evaluate the current Tibetan autonomy effort, but, he said, the group had no specific goals in mind for the meeting.

''It must be clear to all that this special meeting does not have any agenda for reaching a particular predetermined outcome,'' the Dalai Lama said. ''We can be proud at this moment when the Tibetan people themselves are ready and able to take responsibility for Tibet.''

The meeting is on the heels of China's rejection of the envoy's detailed coexistence plan, in which Tibetan leaders explain how Tibet can live autonomously within the structure of the Chinese constitution, reported the New York Times.

This is not the first time talks between China and Tibet have stalled, however.

''The Chinese leadership keeps on saying that the doors to a dialogue are always open but they haven't shown any willingness to take any step, however small, forward,'' said Lodi Gyari, one of two of the Dalai Lama's envoys.

The Dalai Lama said he doubts whether Tibet will ever gain autonomy from China, a nation they have tangled with for over 700 years.

''As far as I'm concerned I have given up,'' he said.

November 9, 2008

China Reveals $586 Billion Economic Package

China revealed a massive economic stimulus package on Sunday, a move that could help the global economy as well, reported the New York Times.

The plan would allow $586 billion to be spent by 2010 on bolstering infrastructure, social welfare programs and transportation projects and would include tax cuts and a loosening of credit, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Introduced by the Chinese State Council, the package would be the largest in China's history, accounting for 7 percent of its gross domestic product over the next two years.

China's economy had been growing by double digits, but with a weakening real estate market and declining exports, China has seen that number shrink.

Unlike the United States government, however, China operates with $2 trillion in foreign reserves and a significant surplus, allowing them to enact aggressive plans to stimulate their economy before things spiral out of control.

"Despite the weakening economy and slowing tax revenue in recent months," said Jing Ulrich, managing director of China equities at JP Morgan in Hong Kong, "the government has every political incentive to boost spending in priority programs."

November 2, 2008

Bolivia Stops US Anti-Drug Work

Bolivian President Evo Morales halted the United State's anti-drug efforts in the region on Saturday as relations between the two countries continue to sour, reported The New York Times.

Morales accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency of espionage and undermining his leftist government, but did not specify whether he would expel DEA agents from Bolivia, reported the BBC.

"Personnel from the DEA supported activities of the unsuccessful coup d'etat in Bolivia," Morales said. "“There were DEA agents who worked to conduct political espionage and to fund criminal groups."

The United States have denied Morales' accusations, saying they have played no part in conspiring against the Bolivian government. The DEA said they won't give up in the region, however.

“We will find other ways to make sure we keep abreast of the drug-trafficking situation through there,? said Garrison Courtney, a DEA spokesman.

The DEA's work largely centers on coca, the raw material used in the production of cocaine which is widely grown in Bolivia. Many Bolivians include coca in their daily lives, chewing it because of its supposed health benefits.

Relations between the United States and Bolivia have soured since Morales' election in 2006. After Morales limited DEA activities and expelled the United States ambassador for espionage, the U.S. placed Bolivia on their anti-narcotics blacklist, which decreased Bolivia's trade preferences.

Despite Morales' promises to reduce coca production, Bolivia's coca output increased 5 percent in 2007, according to United Nations report.

October 26, 2008

Iran's President Suffering From Exhaustion

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, said Sunday that he is suffering from exhaustion, a confession some believe may be masking a larger health concern, reported The New York Times.

Suspicions arose after Ahmadinejad canceled several meetings over the week, which included a canceled speech on Wednesday, reported BBC News.

Facing reelection, Ahmadinejad is becoming increasingly unpopular. His opponents point to his unfulfilled campaign promises as well as his inability to capitalize on rising oil prices. Additionally, Ahmadinejad's refusal to cooperate with the West regarding Iran's nuclear program has resulted in three rounds of crippling economic sanctions on the country.

With oil prices plummeting, Ahmadinejad faces even greater scrutiny as he tries to repair the country's economy, a task which includes reducing the 10 percent unemployment rate and curbing the country's 30 percent inflation rate.

''Thank God, I do not have an illness. Exhaustion is possible, but no illness,'' Ahmadinejad said. "''Of course, we are also human beings, and sometimes we catch a cold."

October 19, 2008

Former Beijing vice-mayor given suspended death sentence for bribery, bad morals

A former Beijing construction official for the Olympic games was given a suspended death sentence for accepting bribes and having bad morals, reported BBC News.

As vice mayor and the director of the agency that oversaw Beijing's citywide makeover, Liu Zhihua, 59, accepted $1,020,000 in exchange for contracts, loans and promotions.

Zhihua's death sentence will be suspended for two years, and will be commuted to a life prison sentence for good behavior, reported The New York Times

In addition to the bribery charge, Zhihua is also guilty of having bad morals, including keeping several mistresses and living lavishly.

After news of the scandal came out in 2006, Zhiuhua was removed from his post as construction director and removed from his government position and the Communist Party.

October 12, 2008

North Korea Continues Dismantling Nuclear Program

North Korea vowed to continue dismantling its nuclear program Sunday in response to the U.S.'s symbolic gesture of removing the country from its list of terrorist sponsors, reported The New York Times.

While the U.S. still imposes economic sanctions on the communist country, the gesture and North Korea's subsequent actions are a step forward for the two countries, whose diplomatic talk has stalled over the past few months.

The two countries have plenty of issues to hash out before a solid diplomatic relationship can develop, however.

The United States would like to send inspectors into North Korea to monitor progress while North Korea would like the U.S. to remove troops from South Korea, reported The Star Tribune.

Both countries would need to make major concessions before either of those things happen, which would be unlikely without considerable discussion. Additionally, the United States and North Korea have track record for not agreeing on what they had supposedly agreed upon.

Broken promises aside, this development should have positive affects for the region. South Korea praised the breakthrough and cited its vested interest in North Korea shutting down its nuclear program. Additionally, while still concerned about North Korea's new found legitimacy as a country, Japan looks forward to further meetings with North Korea in their "six-party" talks.

October 5, 2008

Europe Works To Stave Off Financial Crisis

Facing an American-sized economic downturn, European leaders met Saturday to hash out a bailout plan to stave off their growing credit crisis, reported The New York Times.

“We are fully aware of the responsibility that weighs on our shoulders,? said President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. “What is of the essence is that Europe should exist and respond with one voice.?

That has been a difficult task given the lack of banking and brokerage standards among Europe's major countries. Additionally, European Union nations do not have a common budget, which makes enacting a bailout plan similar to the United State's $700 billion package challenging.

The meeting did yield a broadly outlined bailout plan and a lot of good ideas, including working with the European Investment Bank to make $21.2 billion available to struggling small and midsize business owners.

European leaders say they agree, however, that this economic crisis is a product of risky American economic practices. Many said they prefer Europe's system of setting aside savings to America's "speculative capitalism".

Individually, European countries are doing what they keep their economies stable, reported The Star Tribune.

Sunday, German leaders voted to enact a bailout plan of their own, committing 50 billion euros ($69 billion) to keep Hypo Real Estate AG, the nation's second-largest property lender, afloat.

British treasury chief Alistair Darling said Britain is willing to take "pretty big steps that we wouldn't take in ordinary times."

September 28, 2008

Pirates Demand $35 Million For Hijacked Ship

Pirates hijacked a ship carrying 33 tanks and a crew of 35 on Saturday off the coast of Somalia, reported The New York Times.
The hijackers took The Faina, a Ukrainian-owned vessel, to Xarardheere, an isolated, fishing village and an active pirate hiding place for hijacked ships, after capturing it 200 miles off the coast of Somalia. The Star Tribune reported two other ships may also be hidden at Xarardheere, including a Greek chemical tanker with a crew of 19.
According to Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, an American military spokesman, the United States Navy has a ship, The Howard, in the area but no immediate rescue plans.
Despite The Faina's hostile cargo which included 33 Soviet-designed T2 tanks, ammunition and grenade launchers, Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya, doesn't think the captors are interested in it.
“These guys just want the money,? he said.
As for the hostages, a spokesman on board, speaking via a Russian website, Life.ru, said the crew members were in, "not good, but normal" condition.
The spokesman, Vladimir Nikolsky, identified as the captain's senior assistant, said the ship's captain was suffering from heat stroke.
Attacks like these are becoming increasingly common in a lawless Somalia. Just this year, over 50 ships were attacked and 25 hijacked off the coast of Somalia, 15 of which are still being held.

September 21, 2008

Taliban, al-Qaida Suspected in Pakistan Marriott Bombing

Officials believe Taliban militants and their al-Qaida allies are responsible for the Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing on Saturday night, which killed 53 and wounded 266 reported The Star Tribune.
“Our enemies don’t want to see democracy flourishing in the country,? said Rehman Malik, a senior Interior Ministry official. He added that the bombing was an attempt to undermine the integrity and economy of Pakistan.
Malik said the blast, already considered one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Pakistan's history, left a crater 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep, reported The New York Times. He said the bombers used more than 1,300 pounds of explosives in the attack.
Officials said the Taliban and al-Qaida might have worked together on the attack.
Mahmood Shah, a former government security chief for Pakistan's tribal areas, said while the bombing could have been a classic al-Qaida operation, the Taliban also had the means and motivation to carry out an attack of this magnitude.
Malik said Pakastani officials would carry out an investigation of the bombing but they would do so without aid from the United States. "We don’t need any help; we reject it."

September 15, 2008

Scientist Celebrate Large Hadron Collider

Scientists, in an underground laboratory near Geneva, successfully launched the world's largest particle accelerator on Wednesday, reported The New York Times
“It’s a fantastic moment,? said Lyn Evans, the director of the collider project since it began in 1994. "We can now look forward to a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe.?
Referred to as the Large Hadron Collider, the 17-mile long tunnel is capable of accelerating protons to an energy of seven trillion electron volts, recreating the environment one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang took place.
Scientists at the CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research and the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, hope the collider will lead to revolutionary discoveries in physics.
Among many other things, scientists await experiments involving the creation of Higgs boson, a theoretical particle physicists believe gives particles their mass, reported the Hartford Courant.
Not everybody is excited about the collider's revolutionary power, however. Many worry about its potential ability to create black holes and have dubbed it the "Doomsday Machine."
CERN scientists aver the collider's safety but admit they do not know what will happen once the collider is fully operational.
“That there are many theories means we don’t have a clue,? said Dr. Pier Oddone, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. “That’s what makes it so exciting.?