April 26, 2009

U.S. to start informal meetings with Cuba

The United States will start having informal meetings with Cuba said White House and State Department officials, reported The New York Times.

Obama visited with Latin American leaders earlier this month, and he mentioned that Raul Castro, leader of Cuba, was interested in starting talks.

The Times reported that the informal meetings between state Department and Cuban diplomats in the United States would determine if formal meetings can be started,

Some of the topics that could be discussed include drug trafficking, security matters, and migration. What also could be discussed is if the 47-year-old trade embargo on Cuba can be lifted.

The article discussed how other Latin American countries look at the situation in Cuba to determine how committed the United States is to that region.

The New York Times:

April 19, 2009

U.S. Journalist Sentenced to 8 years in prison by Iran

Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American Journalist, was sentenced to 8 years in prison for spying on Iran for the United States, reported The New York Times.

That information was given to The Times Saturday by Saberi's lawyer. The story stated that the trial started Monday. and it was conducted behind closed doors.

Several different officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, told the times that they are disappointed by Iran's decision.

Saberi's lawyer said that they will appeal the sentence. The Times reported that Saberi was arrested in January for buying alcohol, and she was charged with reporting without press credentials.

With the Obama Administration hinting that they want to negotiate with Iran about their nuclear program, this complicates matters.

According to the story Saberi had been living in Iran for six years.

The New York Times:

April 8, 2009

U.S. crew attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia

A cargo ship manned by 20 Americans was taken over by pirates on Wednesday, and there are conflicting reports into whether the crew has taken back the ship, The New York Times reports.

The U.S., Navy told The New York Times that the ship was taken at 7:30 a.m., local time off the coast of Somalia.

Maersk Alabama, the ship, was heading to the port city of Mombasa, Kenya, carrying supplies for the World Food Program, The New York Times reported.

A Pentagon official, who did not give his name, told The Times that they believe that the crew took back the ship from the pirates. Another military official told The Times that the crew may have one of the pirates while the pirates have the ship's captain.

Pirating has become a major problem off the coast of Somalia, with the 50 pirate attacks already this year. The New York Times reported that figure, and they also said that numerous international navies are patrolling the Gulf of Aden. This area is between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula.

The Times reported that the presence of navies around that area have pushed the pirates farther out into open water.

The New York Times:

March 30, 2009

Former Khmer Rouge leader on trial

Kaing Guek Eav, 66, widely known as Duch, is standing trial for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people during the Khmer Rouge reign in Cambodia. CNN

CNN said that the trial started Monday in front of a U.N.-backed tribunal, who does not have the authority to issue a death sentence. Duch already admitted to his role during the Khmer Rouge regime, and he could receive a sentencing from five years to life.

Khmer Rouge rose to power in 1975 with its leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998. During their reign more than 1.7 million Cambodians died, which was one-forth of their population.

Duch is the first former leader to stand trial, and it is supposed to last three to four months, CNN reported.


March 25, 2009

Clinton Says U.S., Demand Feeding Mexican Unrest

On her arrival to Mexico on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is a part of the drug war that is devastating Mexico. (The New York Times)

The story said that since last year the drug war between drug cartels and police has resulted in 7,200 deaths. Escalating violence has spilled into boarder towns, and questions have been raised about the stability of the Mexican government.

Clinton said that the weapons that the cartels are using are sometimes smuggled from the United States to Mexico. She also added that, "our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade."

This adds further rhetoric from the Obama administration that said the drug war is a two-way highway.

On Tuesday the United States said that they will provide Mexican police with more equipment to help fight the heavily armed cartels. Also, 450 law enforcement officers will be deployed to the boarder.

The New York Times:

March 15, 2009

Mass protest in Pakistan defies orders

A crackdown in Pakistan on a protest and an order to detain a leading opposition leader broke down as a mass demonstration was held, The New York Times reported.

Supporters of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif gathered around his house as he defied house arrest orders in Lahore. Police did not confront protesters at that time

Sharif then headed in a car on a march towards Islamabad as many of his supporters gathered around. The march reached an area in Lahore and that is where protesters clashed with riot police.

The clash of rocks and tear gas continued until about 5 p.m., and that is when the police disappeared.

Sajjad Bhutta, chief magistrate in the Lahore government refused to carry out "illegal" acts police action.

“This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that the police and civil administration have defied orders by the government to control public demonstrations,” said Ashtar Ali, a corporate lawyer who supports the Pakistan Muslim League-N.

Farahnaz Ispohani, spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari said that the police action was order for the sake of security.

Zardari has drawn much criticism from banning Sharif and his brother for running for office. The move was seen as a blatantly political move to eliminate political rivals.

The New York TImes:

March 8, 2009

World Bank Predicts Global Economy to Shrink

World Bank said in a report that the global economy will shrink in 2009 for the first time since WW II, The New York Times reported.

The New York Times reported that pessimistic forecasters had predicted that there would be at least a little growth in 2009. Global trade is also predicted to shrink for the first time since 1982, and for the most since the 1930s.

The recent economic crisis is having major effects in the United States, but it's also wreaking havoc across the globe.

World Bank said that "emerging-market countries," are facing the biggest challenges with a financial gap of a combined $270 billion to $700 billion.

These countries are mostly located in Latin America, Central Europe, Asia and Africa.

According to World Bank, the wealthiest governments should create a "vulnerability fund," to help struggling countries

“We need investments in safety nets, infrastructure, and small and medium size companies to create jobs and to avoid social and political unrest.”said Robert B. Zoellick, the World Bank’s president.

The report is expected to be presented to a meeting of finance ministers from 20 large developing countries.
The New York TImes:

March 1, 2009

Iran and their current nuclear situation

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff claimed that Iran has enough nuclear material to build an atomic bomb, The New York Times and Reuters reported.

The statement by Adm, Mike Mullen confirmed a report by the United Nations watchdog agency that found that Iran had a ton of low-enriched uranium.

This development adds to the cat-and-mouse game the U.S., and Iran have been playing for years.

Iran claims that the development of nuclear technology is strictly for energy purposes while the U.S., says that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

"And Iran having a nuclear weapon, I've believed for a long time, is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world," said Mullen.

The New York Times reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency found on Feb. 19, that Iran had underestimated its uranium supply by a third.

Reports say that Iran only has a stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which isn't ready for making nuclear weapons.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates confirmed this by saying, "They're not close to a stockpile,"

Reuters reported that 1,010 kg of highly-enriched uranium is enough to make a bomb, so Iran still has a ways to go.

The New York Times:


February 22, 2009

74 miners die in China mine blast

74 miners died in a blast in China, the world's deadliest mining country, The New York Times and the Associated Press reported.

A mine in Gujina city, a city in northern China, was the scene of an unknown accident that left 74 dead and 104 hospitalized, six in critical condition.

The New York Times reported that the blast occured at 2:17 am early Sunday. Miners were trapped initially, but all the miners underground were rescued by Sunday night, the Associated Pres reported.

The Shanxi Coking Coal Group own the mine and they have a reputation of having the safest mines in China. They haven't had an accident in five years.

The accident was the deadliest in China since a blast in Linfen city left 105 dead in Dec 2007.

The New York Times:

MSNBC/ Associated Press:

February 15, 2009

Venezuela votes on term limits

Sunday, Venezuelan citizens started voting on a referendum that would eliminate term limits for President Hugo Chavez and other elected officials, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported.

If the referendum is passed, elected officials will have indefinite reelection and increase the power of President Chavez.

President Chavez's, 54, current term runs until 2013 and the possibility of increasing his current ten year run is highly possible.

After an earlier rejection of a similar referendum in December 2007, Chavez has made a hard push to get the measure passed this time around.

Pro-Chavez groups have been aggressively campaigning while citizens have been complaining that the referendum has been taking attention away from other pressing issues.

Venezuela has seen an increase in inflation and crime rates.

Chavez told a local radio station, "Do not fail me, and I will not fail fail you (The Washington Post)."

Opposition to the referendum has had difficulty trying to push their opinions.

Officials reviewing opposition advertisements took so long that the ads never got viewed, while university students were denied permits for protests.

Both The Washington Post and The New York Times reported that the election is going to be close.

The New York Times:

The Washington Post:

February 7, 2009

Unrest in Madagascar

More than 20 people died in Madagascar protesting the current administration of President Marc Ravalomanana both the New York Times and The Associated Press reported.

Saturday The New York Times reported that protesters faced security forces at the capital for about an hour and they marched towards the presidential compound called Ambohitsorohitra. There security forces opened fire killing 23 people and wounding 83 according to Jaona Andrianaivo, the head of the Antananarivo fire brigade.

The AP reported that 30 were dead.

President Ravalomanana has been accused of leading the government poorly while citizens have complained of the loss of civil liberties.

Andry Rajoelina is the oppositional leader and a former radio personality. According to The New York Times, Rajoelina declared that he was taking over the government last month and he, "accused Mr. Ravalomanana of being a dictator and abandoning the people."

In response Ravalomanana fired Rajoelina as the mayor of the capital Antananarivo.

New York Times:

The Associated Press:

January 31, 2009

Russian economic woes draws protests.

Saturday, protesters throughout Russia showed their discontent at the Russian government and the handling of the current economic slowdown both the BBC News and The New York Times reported.

Protesters gathered in the eastern city of Vladivostok to protest the recent raise in car tariffs to boost sales for national made vehicles. Some residents in Vladivostok make their living importing cheep Japanese cars but the tariffs are hurting business.

This protest was organized by the Communist Party reported the BBC News.

The fall in oil prices, rising unemployment, and the world economic downturn are playing havoc on the Russian economy which was looking promising last year with the sharp rise in oil prices.Citizens believe that the Kremlin doesn't have a clear strategy towards the future of Russia.

Protests were also held in Moscow by the Russian Communist Party and a pro-Kremlin Party according to The New York Times. The protests have been mostly nonviolent with minimal police involvement. The New York Times reported that 41 people were arrested in a unsanctioned protest in Moscow.

BBC News:

The New York Times: