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December 6, 2008

Amsterdam Plans a City Clean Up

Amsterdam revealed plans Saturday to close half the city’s brothels, sex shops and marijuana cafés in an effort to curb organized crime from the popular tourist destination, CNN said.

The city council said that some red light businesses exist as a cover for organized crime such as the trafficking of women and drug dealing.

"Money laundering, extortion and human trafficking are things you do not see on the surface but they are hurting people and the city. We want to fight this," Deputy Mayor Lodewijk Asscher said to BBC.

The plan announced that Amsterdam will spend $38 million to $51 million to attract hotels, restaurants and small shops to the area, the BBC said.

Asscher made it clear that the city will remain a “tolerant and crazy place,? CNN said.

The city’s “tolerant policy? has a longstanding reputation, emerging as a center for prostitution in the 1600s.

The Netherlands legalized prostitution in 2000 and allows the open selling of marijuana in coffee shops.

November 23, 2008

Vatican Forgives John Lennon for Jesus Jibe

The Vatican newspaper forgave John Lennon this week for his 1966 boast that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, FOX News reported.

The late English singer told a British newspaper that he did not know whether Christianity or rock and roll would die out first, the BBC said.

Lennon’s comment enraged Christians, especially in the United States where some burned the Beatles’ records at gatherings in huge pyres, MSNBC said.

"The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a 'boast' by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll," Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily said, according to MSNBC.

The newspaper went on the praise the musical talent of the Beattles, FOX News reported.

"The fact remains that 38 years after breaking up, the songs of the Lennon-McCartney brand have shown an extraordinary resistance to the passage of time, becoming a source of inspiration for more than one generation of pop musicians," the newspaper said.

November 16, 2008

Turbulence Caused Crash of Mexican Jet, Official Says

The fatal crash of a the Lear jet, which killed everyone aboard, including Mexico’s interior minister, may have been caused by the turbulence from a large passenger jet it was following too closely, the transportation secretary said Friday, according to MSNBC.

The pilots of the jet did not immediately slow down after they learned they were nearly one nautical mile too close behind a Boeing 767-300, preliminary investigations revealed, MSNBC said.

Both aircrafts were on their way to Mexico City’s international airport on Nov. 4.

No alcohol or drug traces were found in either pilot and no evidence has been found to indicate that anything was wrong with the plane, Luis Tellez said to CNN.

Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino died with the eight other passengers on board. Five additional people were killed and 14 were injured on ground when the jet crashed into rush-hour traffic in Mexico City, CNN said.

Mourino, a close confidant of President Felipe Calderon, was compared to the equivalent of a vice-president by MSNBC.

November 9, 2008

Twenty Dead in Russian Submarine Accident

At least 20 people have died in an accident on a Russian submarine test run in the Sea of Japan, official said Sunday, according to CNN.

The accident was caused by a fire safety system that was activated by mistake, spewing chemicals and injuring 21 others, the BBC reported.

Freon gas from the fire-extinguishing system was released Saturday, killing the victims, Sergei Markin, a Russian investigative agency official, said to MSNBC.

The submarine, which was to be commission later this year by the navy, was holding 208 people, including 81 servicemen, Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said to CNN reporters.

The BBC reported that 14 civilians were reported dead while CNN said that 17 civilian members of the shipyard crew were killed.

All accounts reported that the accident did not damage the submarine’s nuclear reactor. The submarine returned to its base on Russia’s Pacific coast under its own power, the reports said.

October 30, 2008

Charges Filed in Kercher Case

Relatives of Meredith Kercher, the murdered British exchange student, said they are “satisfied? that an Italian judge has convicted a man for her murder, the BBC reported.

In addition to convicting Rudy Guede, 21, Judge Paolo Micheli ruled Tuesday that there is significant evidence to officially charge Amanda Knox, a 21-year-old U.S. exchange student, and her former boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito, 24, with Kercher’s murder, according to Newsweek.

Kercher was found dead and partially clothed in a house shared with other exchange students last year on Nov. 2.

Giuliano Mignini, the lead prosecutor, believes Kercher’s murder resulted from “a satanic-ritual-inspired orgy that went terribly wrong,? an idea Sollecito got from reading Japanese manga comics, Newsweek said.

Knox, who has been jailed since her arrest last Nov., initially told police she had heard Kercher’s screams from another room in the house they shared. Later, the Seattle native said she did not come home until the morning after the murder, according to the New York Times.

October 23, 2008

Chinese Dissenter Awarded Human Rights Prize

Hu Jia, a jailed Chinese activist for democracy and human rights in China, won the European Parliament’s highest human rights prize on Thursday.

The Sarkharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded to Hu in spite of a warning from Beijing that his selection would harm Chinese relations with the European Union, the New York Times reported.

“The European Union is sending out a signal of clear support to all those who support human rights in China,? European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said according to a BBC report.

Hu, an activist for environmental, AIDS and democratic rights in China, is serving a three and a half year jail term for inciting subversion of state power, the BBC said.

The New York Times described Hu as “a one-man clearinghouse of information on human rights abuses and other controversies that officials preferred to keep quiet.?

"The award of this richly deserved accolade to him shows that MEPs (members of the European Parliament) will not be silenced like so many Chinese dissidents have been,? foreign affairs spokesman for the British Conservatives in the EU assembly, Charles Tannock, said according to CNN.

October 16, 2008

Christians Flee Mosul after Violent Attacks

At least 3,000 Christians have fled the northern city of Mosul, Iraq the past week as a result of the violence directed at them, FOX News reported.

“The Christians were subjected to abduction attempts and paid ransom, but now they are subjected to a killing campaign," the governor of northern Iraq's Ninevah province, Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula said according to FOX News.

A New York Times article reported that authorities are not sure who is responsible for the attacks on Christians. Arab politicians have pointed to the Kurds, who in turn blame former Baathists and terrorists, according to the Times.

The FOX News article said that Islamic extremists have been targeting Christians since the 2003 invasion, causing in “tens of thousands? to flee Iraq.

Thirteen Christians have been killed the past two weeks as Muslim extremists have threatened to kill those who will not convert to Islam, Iraqi officials told CNN.

Three abandoned Christian homes in eastern Mosul were blown up Saturday, FOX News reported.

CNN, FOX News, and the New York Times all reported that the recent violence toward Christians may be a result of tension surrounding the upcoming provincial elections.

Christians in Mosul have lobbied to pass a law which would set aside seats in parliament for minorities, such as Christians.

October 10, 2008

Former President of Finland Recieves Nobel Peace Prize

Finland’s former President Martti Ahtisaari won the 2008 Noble Peace Prize on Friday for “his efforts to build a lasting peace form Africa and Asia to Europe and the Middle East,? according to FOX News.

Ahtisaari said he considers the 13 years spent helping Namibia transition from brutal conflict to independence to be the highlight of his career, according to a New York Times report.

The 71-year-old has worked to find peaceful solutions in Kosovo, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, CNN reported.

The president of the International Crisis Group, Gareth Evans, said Ahtisaari is “a brilliant negotiator and mediator, with a tremendously effective personal style that combines charm and good humor with an iron determination.?

Both Fox News and the New York Times noted that the committee’s selection of Ahtisaari reflected a transition back to traditional candidates after awarding the $1.4 million prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change last year.

October 1, 2008

Pirates Continue Possession of Ukrainian Ship

Nearly a week after pirates seized the Ukrainian ship loaded with tanks and weapons, the Faina remains anchored off the coast of Somalia under pirate control, ABC News reported.

Some worry that the Somali pirates could support terrorist networks internationally.

According to a Chatham House report, the money collected in pirate ransoms is already funding the war in Somalia along with Al-Shabaab, a group listed as a terrorist organization by the US.

With 16,000 ships estimated to pass through the Gulf of Aden a year, changing routes would escalate the cost of shipping, adding weeks to ship goods as well as using more fuel, CNN said.

The group took over the ship “to stop illegal fishing and dumping,? the pirates’ spokesman Sugule Ali said Tuesday in an interview with New York Times.

“We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard,? Sugule said.

September 22, 2008

Questions Raised on Information Delay in China Milk Contamination

China’s chief of food quality resigned Monday after nearly 54,000 children have been affected by tainted milk.

Milk powder from 22 dairies was found to be contaminated with the chemical melamine, according to a CNN report.

The chemical, used to produce plastics and fertilizer, was added to watered-down milk in order to “fool quality checks,? said the China Daily.

Investigations have revealed that the at least one of China’s milk producers had received complaints about ill effects in its infant formula as early as December 2007, according to FOX News.

One New York Times article questions why it took months for complaints to surface. Did the government and dairy officials plan to conceal the problem until after the Olympics?

China’s largest infant formula producer, Sanlu, chose to hide problems from consumers “at least throughout the month of August,? officials said to ABC News.

The New York Times wondered “how milk contamination could have been so widespread, affecting the country’s top brands — Mengniu, Yili and Sanlu — given the government’s pledges and its food safety campaign.?

“We’re discussing this with the government,? Hans Troedsson, the head representative of the World Health Organization for China said to the New York Times. “They are investigating how these delays have occurred.?

September 17, 2008

8 Dead After Attack at Celebration for Mexican Independence

Two explosions killed eight people and injured more than 100 during an Independence Day celebration in Mexico late Monday night.

Many families in the crowd first attributed the blasts to a show of fireworks as the two grenades exploded during the shout for independence, according to an ABC News article. However, it soon became apparent this was not the case.

Authorities do not know for sure who hurled the grenades into the crowd, but suspect drug gangs in the area, according to the New York Times.

The attack occurred in Michoacan, the home state of President Felipe Calderon. According to MSNBC, drug gangs have responded violently to Calderon’s increased attention on the cartels.

The president has installed more than 25,000 soldiers to fight against the gangs since he took office in 2006.

“The problem is that this is part of a real wave of violence that is consuming Mexico,? said Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue to CNN.

September 14, 2008

Bombs in New Delhi Kill 18

Five bombs killed at least 18 people in a park and crowded shopping areas of New Delhi Saturday.

CNN says to have received a warning e-mail from the Indian Mujahideen, an Islamic group, about five minutes before the bombings began.

“In the name of Allah, Indian Mujahideen strikes back once more…Stop us if you can,? CNN reported of the e-mail.

The bombs, carefully placed in some of the busiest shopping areas, have injured at least 61 people, said Mayor Arti Mehra. The New York Times estimated that thousands of terrified people fled the area.

According to the Economic Times, the e-mail went on to justify the attack saying, “This accurately planned deadly strike is just another reaction to all those… harassments imposed by your…police on the innocent Muslims.?

“There is no justification for the vicious murder of innocent people. The U.S. stands shoulder to shoulder with India in the fight against terror,? U.S. Ambassador David Mulford said of the attack according to USAToday.

At least two other similar bombing attacks have been initiated by the group, according to the BBC.