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May 6, 2007

French elect Sarkozy for next President

France elected Nicolas Sarkozy as the next French President on Sunday, msnbc.com is reporting. Sarkozy beats his female, socialist opponent Segolene Royal with 53% of the vote. Royal conceded minutes after the polls closed.

Sarkozy, the conservative candidate, will take over after Jacques Chirac's stagnant 2 term presidency. Sarkozy faces a country with a declining economy and declining international relevance.

Sarkozy has pledged that the U.S. will become a closer ally with France, and that Washington can expect "friendship" from his administration. Sarkozy, like Bush, is a hardliner on things such as immigration policy. Some in France worry that he will ignite long simmering tensions in the marginalized outskirts of Paris where many minorities reside.

Officials estimate that voter turnout was around 85% for this election, a 40 year high.

April 29, 2007

Amnesty International releases report on China

The human rights watchdog group, Amnesty International, has released a report on ongoing human rights abuseing in China, msnbc.com is reporting.

China, the host of the 2008 Olympics, was criticsed for it's repression of free speech and media, as well as it's system of detention without trial (seen in many cases with activists), the report said. Amnesty says strides have been made in China, but that it is not living up to it's human rights promises prior to the 2008 world attention it will receive with the Olympics.

After high profile pressure, China has started reform on its death penalty system, decreasing the numbers of people put to death, as well as loosening restrictions on foreign journalists entering the country. Repression on domestic journalists and the use of the death penalty has not been eradicated.

April 22, 2007

France holds runoff Presidental election

France held the it's first election in deciding their next President, the NY Times is reporting.

France holds an inital election with runoff voting (a system that includes ranking candidates on the ballot) and elected Nicloas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal as their choices to move forward in the election process.

Royal, a socialist candidate, trailed Sarkozy, a conservative by 5% with other candidates splitting the remainder of the votes.

The next elections will take place later in spring. France is widely considered to be in an economic decline, with their GDP slipping in ranking, ethnic tensions, and rising unemployment.

Both candidates could be the first President that was born after WWII, and Royal could be the first female President of France.

The candidates vary greatly on issues, with Royal supporting a more socialist democracy, and Sarkozy with a more nationalistic "law and order" means of governing.

Almost 84% of registered voters particpated in this election, many with strong views on the candidates and parties. The country, in the midst of a decline of power and economics, has suffered under current President Chirac's lask-lustre terms. Known for being politically involved and nationalistic, the French elections are sure to be closely watched, with high participation rates.

April 8, 2007

Genocide Court did not seek classified documents

The NY Times is reporting that the International Court of Justice did not seek to declassify or get access to Serbian documents deemed "threatening to national security" from the early 1990s, during the time of a genocide in Bosnia.

Serbia was found not guilty of committing genocide, and the court ruling pointed to the belief that Bosnian Serb army, which primarily committed the genocide, acted on its own. Many lawyers and human rights groups are upset with the final and binding ruling because they say that outside research, interviews, and other evidence has shown that the Bosnian Serb army was an extentsion of the Serbian army and General Mladic and Milosevic.

If Serbia had been found guilty in the ICJ, a civil court, Serbia may have been liable for huge amounts of financial damages to Bosnians.

Many international organizations and respected lawyers (and even the dissenting judges themselves) disagree with the decision of the court to not press Serbia to de-censor or turn over important documents. Many quoted on background in the article say that it is widely believed that those documents would have changed the outcome of the case. Indeed, a third party in Serbia said that Serbian lawyers knew they had caught a lucky break.

The case was an important one for internationl laws and justice, and from a human rights perspective, it's an unfortunate verdict from the Hague.

Violence in Afghanistan

A rash of recent, violent events have unfolded in Afghanistan as of late, msnbc.com is reporting. Six Canadian NATO troops were killed this weekend by a roadside bomb. Since 2002, 51 Canadians have died in the NATO mission to Afghanistan, who are fighting mainly in the southern part of Afghanistan. Another casuality of a NATO solider was also reported seperately this weekend.

In addition, a translator for an Italian journalist was beheaded by the Taliban. The translator, a driver and the journalist were kidnapped in early March. The driver was beheaded, and the journalist was released 2 weeks ago in exchange for 5 Taliban militants. Tailban forces said a similar deal was offered in exchange for the translator but the government would not meet the terms. Officials confirmed the death Saturday.

March 21, 2007

Panamanian cocaine bust

Panamanian officials working with US Drug Enforcement Agency officials stopped and seized a 20+ ton shipment of cocaine on a boat off the Pacific coast of Panama, msnbc.com is reporting.

Twelve men on the boat and 2 men believed to be connected to the drugs in Panama City were arrested. The boat was sailing under a Panamanian flag, though it is commplace for Colombian cartels to bring drugs through Panama for shipment to other countries, including the U.S.

Officials say this maritime bust is the largest in history, exceeding 20 tons. In 2005 15 tons of cocaine were found in a Colombian jungle cartel stronghold.

Interestingly, details on this event are varying among news outlets. This CNN article reports the cocaine to total 19.4 tons, while msnbc.com reports the number at 21.4 tons. Additionally, the role of the Coast Guard working with Panamanian officials is reported in a different light with each article.

This article doesn't mention the presence of Panamanian officials and attributes the seizure entirely to the US Coast Guard. Obviously, details are still unclear and perhaps forthcoming.

March 13, 2007

Halliburton draws criticism

Oil services company Halliburton has drawn criticism as of late for their decision to move their CEO out of the US to Dubai, the NY Times is reporting.

The company, which was led by Dick Cheney for 5 years, and recieved a no-bid contract for Iraq is accused by some Democrats of trying to avoid taxes or criticism for recent actions. Halliburton has come under fire with accusations and calls for investigation into their handling of taxpayer money in providing services (food, construction, etc.) to the war/soliders in Iraq.

Halliburton officials say they will remain fully incorporated in Delaware (keeping their tax situation the same), and retain their headquaters in Houston. Company officials pointed to the growing and thriving oil deal potential in the middle east, citing Dubai as a prime example as the reason for the CEO's move there.

Reactions are mixed among congresspeople and experts. Some say that the move makes sense in light of Dubai's success in the globalization market. Others claim that this move is too unusual and could point to a larger move in the future. Halliburton denies those claims, but congressmen like Henry Waxman (D-CA) are "thinking about" holding hearings on the issue.

Another article on the topic can be found here, from slate.com.

February 25, 2007

Rice talks about potential for Iran negotiations

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rica said that the U.S. would negotiate with Iran if the country suspended their nuclear enrichment program, msnbc.com is reporting.

While Iran contends that the plan is a peaceful energy source program, the U.S. and much of the international community sees it as the start to a weapons program. Th UN security council issued an ultimatium in December for Iran to suspend it's uranium enrichment. Iran has refused.

Rice said that the offer for "full scale" negotiations is open and flexible in all respects, except that Iran MUST suspend their enrichment program for any start to negotiation.

U.S. officials also denied a plan on the U.S.'s behalf to attack Iran. Certain officials did say that a defense-like system was being worked on in case of an escalated danger from Iran. But U.S. officials said that the plan should not be read as a plan to attack Iran.

The article employed quotes to support the points made in the article. After a summary of Rice's main point within the speech, the article quotes Rice in order to get the points across in a way that really shows the meaning of Rice's language.

The article can be found here.

February 11, 2007

Portugal vote may change abortion laws

A national referendum was held Sunday in Portugal on whether or not the country would liberalize it's abortion laws. While the referendum passed in favor of liberalizing the laws, the voter turnout was below 50% which is the minimum turnout for vote results to be binding.

Critics blamed the weather, and lack of knowledge and apathy as potential reasons for the low turnout.

The Parliament will debate the issue, and many are hopeful that because there is a socialist majority, that they will enact the referendum as law. The Prime Minister was hopeful that the abortion restrictions in his country would be legalized.

Currently, Potrugal's laws are some of the harshest in all of the EU. They criminalize women having abortions, as well as doctors who perform them, and anyone who may accompany a woman to an abortion.

Women can get up to 3 years in prison for abortions that the state has deemed illegal. Most abortion cases in Portugal are illegal by the current law, with exceptions made for cases of mental/physical risk and rape.

The article can be found here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/12/world/europe/12portugal.html?hp&ex=1171256400&en=7d7961adcfe98629&ei=5094&partner=homepage

February 3, 2007

Bomb kills 130 in Baghdad

The NY Times (and msnbc.com) are reporting that at least 132 people died Saturday after a massive bomb planted by a suicide bomber went off in the middle of a busy market. This is the deadliest single bomb since the beginning of the U.S.'s invasion of Iraq.

The bomb was driven into the market hidden on a truck underneath food supplies. In addition to the fatalities, 305 people are said to be wounded. The bomber believed to have targeted Shiites, as the market where the bomb went off was predominantly Shiite. Shiite-Sunni groups traded mortar later on Saturday, apparently in response of retribution for the attack.

Prime minister Maliki condemned the attack, as did the White house, but Shiites in the surrounding neighborhoods remain unconvinced or unsatisfied with the level of protection given to Shiites. Some are finding the treatment of Shiite militas unfair, and feel that with American forces cracking down on Shiite militias, ordinary Shiite citizens are now more vulnerable to Sunni attacks.

Regardless, the scene at the market was said to be chaotic, as medical supplies and aid were limited. Witnesses say that many people were trapped in apartments along the road where the bomb went off. Almost 400 people are said to have died in the past 3 weeks from various bombings in Shiite areas of Hilla and Baghdad.

The NY Times news story uses attribution as a means of telling the story from a first person account, and additionally, letting the reader know the exact words of the governmental authorities with regards to the bombing.

The story was fairly successful with weaving emotional quotes into the article, while not letting them overwhelm the journalistic quality of the story.

The article can be found here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/world/middleeast/04iraq.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5094&en=09a7dfec3635b392&hp&ex=1170651600&partner=homepage

My comparison article can be found here:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16957259/

January 28, 2007

Central American immigrants making their way to Mexico

A recent http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/world/americas/28mexico.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5094&en=254dd4f253747cda&hp&ex=1170046800&partner=homepage NY Times article describes the issue of Central American Migrants, in seek of a better life, sneaking into southern Mexico. The subsequent journey north through all of Mexico, with the goal of reaching the U.S. is a dangerous one.

Wide scale corruption within Mexican police and border patrol forces have been known to ambush and rob migrants. Also, the trainhopping that carries these migrants northwards has left many injured or even dead from falling off and landing on the tracks.

While various social services groups try to help the migrants, the problem is consistent, and the migrants not easily deterred. Many quoted in the article had been injured, or made it to the U.S. border only to be sent back, and yet were still willing to try again. A main reason that various Central American migrants cited for wanting to leave their home countries was the lack of resources, and the persistent poverty there.

The reporter of the article needed to weave in timely news information within an issue that is not only hotly debated here in the U.S., but also is emotional for all involved. The quotes and photos from a man who lost his legs on the journey, provided a sense of the seriousness of the situation, but also added an emotional element that the reporter needed to balance with harder news elements.

The lead in this story was more of a feature lead, despite the article's placement under the international news section. The lead is a "who" lead, focusing on 4 specific men who are making the journey through Mexico, as a way of introducing the problem being reported on.