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March 4, 2008

Call for Truce in Order to Resume Peace Talks

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called for a truce between Israel and Palestinian militants before peace negotiations – suspended in protest of Israel’s offensive in Gaza – could continue, reported BBC News.
More than 110 Palestinians have died in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, including an attack Tuesday killing an infant girl and seriously wounding three others, according to CNN.
According to CNN, Abbas told a news conference that he called on the “Israeli government to halt its aggression so the necessary environment can be created to make negotiations succeed.?
He added that at least 20 children and dozens of civilians died in the Israel’s recent offensive and that “no one can justify the killing actions of the Israeli army over the past few days.?
The attacks Tuesday came only hours after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with President Abbas and called for peace talks to resume, according to the BBC.
Rice said she believed a peace deal within the year is still possible, though it is not an easy task.
She emphasized the importance of a unified focus on peace from all parties, and recognized the recent civilian death toll, saying the Israelis “need to be aware of the effects of these operations on innocent people,? reported ABC News.

February 27, 2008

Global Seed Vault Opens in Arctic

A frozen “doomsday? vault where millions of the world’s seeds will be stored opened Tuesday in an Arctic mountain in Norway, reported the Associated Press.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built to protect as many as 4.5 million crop seeds from disasters ranging from global warming to nuclear strikes, reported the AP.
According to the AP, the vault was built by the Norwegian government for $9.1 million and will operate like a bank box: Norway owns the bank, but the countries depositing the seeds own them and can use them as needed free of charge.
Among the first seeds placed in the vault were varieties of potatoes, barley, lettuce, aubergines, black-eyed pea, sorghum and wheat, reported the Times Online, though first to be placed was a specially prepared box of rice from 104 countries.

The vault, consisting of three chambers built 400 feet inside a mountain, will be kept at -0.4 F, reported the Times.

Cary Fowler, the executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust that led the project, said the opening of the vault marked a historic turning point in “safeguarding the world’s crop diversity,? reported Scientific American. She added that crop diversity would soon prove to be one of the most important factors in many of the world’s problems including climate change and water and energy supply.

February 25, 2008

40 Killed in Iraq Suicide Bombing

Forty people were killed Sunday and 46 others were injured outside of Baghdad, when a suicide bomber attacked targeting pilgrims on their way to a Shia holy festival, reported the Daily Times out of Pakistan.
According to the Times the attack in the town of Iskandariva, about 25 miles south of Baghdad, came just hours after militants killed three pilgrims and wounded 36 others in a separate attack in southern Baghdad.
The bomber detonated a vest filled with explosives at a rest stop where Shiite pilgrims had stopped on their way to the Arbaeen ceremony, a major religious ceremony, which will take place on February 28, reported the Agence France-Presse.
A doctor at a hospital in the city of Hilla said that most of the casualties were caused by the people being hit by the balls bearings from the explosion, reported Reuters. The news agency reported that it was one of the deadliest attacks this year in Iraq and occurred despite tightened security.
U.S. brigade commander Colonel Tom James said security at rest areas for pilgrims would be strengthened by Iraqi forces, but said it was “very difficult? to protect everyone, reported Reuters.
According to the U.S. military the suicide attack took place on a two-lane highway where more than 40,000 pilgrims had passed earlier in the day, reported Reuters.

February 13, 2008

Australia Apologizes to Aborigines

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued an apology in parliament to the nations aborigines for decades of racist policies.
Rudd apologized for policies that “inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss,? reported BBC News. He addressed “especially? those of the Stolen Generations aboriginal children taken from their parents under an assimilation policy lasting from the 19th Century through the late 1960s, according to the BBC.
Rudd’s apology comes after former Prime Minister John Howard refused to do so for more than a decade, a position about 30% of Australians, reported the BBC.
Many aboriginal leaders have called the apology a “cut-price sorry? for its lack of reparations, according to the BBC.
The Associated Press reported that following the apology “attention quickly turned to what many consider the inevitable next step: paying compensation to victims of past injustices.?
Lowitia O’Donoghue, 75, has campaigned for a government apology for nearly a decade.
“The job’s not done; it’s only the beginning,? she said, reported the AP.
An estimated 100,000 children were taken from their parents during the Stolen Generations, and aboriginal leaders say until victims received reparations for being taken as children, the injustice will never be completely repaired, according to the AP.
Patrick Dodson, an aboriginal leader, told the National Press Club that “Any group of people who have been treated badly under laws … deserve to pursue compensation judicially, legally or politically,? reported the AP.
While many have tried to sue governments for taking them from their families, difficulty proving the cases has led to minimal success.
Thus far, Tasmania, Australia’s smallest state, is the only government to establish a compensation fund for the stolen generations.
Some members of parliament, including Wilson Tuckey, still oppose the national apology. Tuckey left Parliament before the apology. He said it would do little for Aborigines, according to Times Online.
“Tomorrow there’ll be no petrol sniffing tomorrow little girls can sleep in their beds without any concern – it’s all fixed, the Rudd spin will fix it all,? Tuckey said, reported Times Online.

February 11, 2008

East Timor President Shot by Rebels

President Jose Ramos-Horta was shot in the stomach during a rebel attack Monday on his home, according to the Associated Press.
Ramos-Horta, also a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is undergoing surgery at an Australian military base in the capital Dili, according to reuters.com.
Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed and an East Timor soldier was wounded in the 4:30 a.m. attack.
The country is policed by United Nations forces, except for the capital, which was handed over to Timorese police just this month.
In 1996 Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Belo won the Nobel Peace Prize for the leadership in the nonviolent movement against more than two decades of Indonesian occupation. East Timor gained independence in 2002.
East Timor faced violence in 2006 that killed 37 people and forced 150,000 from their homes. Foreign troops were needed to restore order, reported reuters.com.
Reinado was charged with murder after he led a revolt against the government in 2006. Rebels loyal to him were involved in attacks against Australian troops near Dili earlier this month, according to reuters.com.

February 3, 2008

Rebels Launch Attack in Chad's Capital

Hundreds of rebels armed with sub-machine guns, charged into Chad’s capital Saturday. They clashed with government troops in the area around the presidential palace, reported the Kenosha News.
The attack put in peril a $300 million global aid operation and delayed the deployment of European Union troops. The peacekeepers to be deployed would help provide security to an estimated 250,00 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan, reported the LA Times.
The Chadian rebels gathered outside N’Djamena after a three-day trek across the desert. They entered the city in 250 to 300 pick-up trucks with guns mounted in the beds.
Both the rebels and the government claim to be winning the recent fight. “The situation is under control,? Cherif Mahamat Zene, Chad’s ambassador in Ethiopia, told the Associated Press.
Rebels have fought to overthrow President Idriss Deby, whom they accuse of corruption. Among the rebel leaders is Deby’s own nephew, Timan Erdini, reported the Kenosha News.
Unrest among rebel groups in 2006 led to a previous attempt to overthrow Deby. That attack resulted in defeat shortly after the rebels entered N’Djamena, reported the LA Times.
Accusations of the Sudanese government supporting Chadian rebels, and vice versa, has led some to question whether Sudan could have played a role in the recent attack.
Should the rebel groups attain power, the African Union said it would not recognize them, reported the Kenosha News.