April 26, 2009

Cruise ship uses gunfire to stop pirates

The crew of an Italian cruise ship fired upon Somali pirates Saturday when the pirates attempted to attack, CNN reported.

The cruise ship, which had 1,500 people onboard, was attacked by six Somali pirates in a speedboat, Italy's ANSA news agency said. The security crew defended the ship by firing back on the Somalis, causing them to flee.

"It was an emergency operation," the cruise ship company's director, Domenico Pellegrino, told the Associated Press. "They didn't expect such a quick response. They were surprised."

The cruise ship is owned by an Italian company and was returning to Italy after a cruise, ANSA reported. The attack occured about 180 miles north of the Seychelles. No one was injured.

Piracy is common off the coasts of Somalia, Kenya and the Gulf of Aden, an area that spans more than 1.1 million square miles.

Yahoo News said some analysts are predicting that the use of weapons could escalate violence around the Horn of Africa, where 100 ships were attacked by Somali ships last year.

April 18, 2009

US will boycott UN racism conference

Next week's UN forum on racism will be boycotted by the US due to a disagreement concerning Israel and freedom of speech, BBC News reports. The state department called the guiding document of the conference unacceptable after being amended.

The US said that their decision not to attend was final due to it being too late to address critical problems with the conference, JTA reported.

The US found the newer additions to the text regarding 'incitement' to be obstructive to unfettered free speech, the state department said in a statement.

The US said they were also alarmed about language in the text which concerned an "incitement to religious hatred."

The decision of whether or not to attend has raged in the US for weeks, the Associated Press news agency said.

The participation of the US in the conference was opposed by Pro-Isreal groups and supported by human rights organizations like TransAfrica. Canada and Israel have said they would not attend and EU diplomats are still considering.

The Durban Review Conference will open Monday and last for five days.

April 11, 2009

Suicide attack kills 9 Sunni fighters

Nine U.S.-allied Sunni paramilitaries were killed and 30 were injured Saturday when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt at an army base in Iraq, Yahoo news has reported.

The attack occurred in Jbala, a town about 35 miles south of Baghdad. The bomber struck at 11 a.m., when 250 members of the Sunni paramilitaries, known as the Awakening Councils or Suns of Iraq, were at the Jbala base.

More than 50 people have already been killed from the weeks previous bombings. A bombing in Mosul Friday killed five U.S. soldiers, making it the deadliest attack against U.S. soldiers in more than a year.

The ability of Iraqi forces to control security is an issue of concern since U.S. soldiers will withdraw from Iraq on June 30.

April 5, 2009

Destruction of Mexican 'Death Saint' shrines protested

The Mexican government's destruction of "Death Saint" shrines was protested by about 200 worshippers Sunday, Yahoo News has reported. The worshippers said that the destruction of the shrines is religious persecution.

Protestors marched from a Mexico City neighborhood to the Metropolitan Cathedral while chanting, "We are believers, not criminals!"

The shrines are being destroyed due to their popularity with drug traffickers, who often leave shrines to the saint during raids on cartel safe houses.

The Death Saint, which is depicted in a similar manner to the Grim Reaper wearing a robe, is believed to protect against untimely or violent deaths. Those who worship the saint will pray to the saint for protection or leave candles. Tens of thousands of people worship the Death Saint in small churches and chapels.

Over 30 shrines were destroyed by army troops and workers last month in the city of Nuevo Laredo.

David Romo, the archbishop of the Death Saint worshiping sect, said the destruction of the shrines was religious persecution and demanded a meeting with President Felipe Calderon.

"Sometimes people look down on us because we believe in her, but my faith is bigger than somebody looking down on me," America Melendez, a 24-year-old street vendor, said as he marched with a red-robed statue of the saint.

March 29, 2009

British minister used expense account to buy porn

Jacqui Smith, Britain's Home Secretary, apologized Sunday for using her parliamentary expense account to purchase five pay-per-view movies, ABC News reported. Of the five movies, two were x-rated and said to have been viewed by her husband.

Smith said that she should not have claimed any of these movies on the account and said the occurance was a result of not being careful enough with a service package that included both internet and TV.

"As soon as the matter was brought to my attention, I took immediate steps to contact the relevant parliamentary authorities and rectify the situation," Smith said.

Smith's spokeswoman said that x-rated is not the same as porn. She said the names of the x-rated movies could not be released due to government policy.

Smith's husband, Richard Timney, said he was sorry for any embarassment he caused his wife.

The parliamentary ethics watchdog has been investigating Smith over a previous expenses used to purchase a second home in central England.

Euronews said Smith will not be resigning because of either scandal, Euronews said.

March 15, 2009

Bombing kills 4 tourists, 3 injured

A bombing has killed four tourists and injured three in Al Shiabam, Yemen, CNN reported.

The explosion occurred at 7:30 p.m. and could be heard in the Al-Qubah District of Al Shiabam, 2 miles away from the explosion, Hakim Al-Masmari, the editor-in-chief of the English-language Daily Yemen Post, said.

The tourists, all four of which were South Korean citizens, were taking pictures of Shiabam at sunset, Al-Masmari said. Their nationalities are not known at this time. One of the injured was a Yemeni tourist guide, The New Zealand Herald said.

The South Koreans were taken to a hospital where they died at the scene, Al-Masmari said. One of them was in serious condition.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, a terrorist attack has not been ruled out, a security source said.

Yemen has been known as a center for militant activity. It is the ancestral homeland of Osama Bin Laden.

The New Zealand Herald has said that a suicide bomber was responsible for the attacks.

March 7, 2009

Palestinian PM resigns

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has given his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas, BBC News reported. This resignation comes before talks of power sharing between President Abbas and Hamas, Abbas' rivals.

Fayyad has said that he will not step down until a national unity government is formed. Yahoo News is reporting that Fayyad may not step down until late March, and that he may be reappointed if a unity is not formed. Fayyad's resignation is an important building block for the formation of a unity government.

Committees have been assembled by delegations from Fatah, Hamas, and other Palestinian groups in an attempt to form a unity government. A month from now an indication of progress may be able to be seen. The rebuilding of Gaza would be co-ordinated by the new government.

The differences between Fatah and Hamas is one of the reasons that a peace deal between Israel and Palestine has not taken shape.

March 1, 2009

Iran has materials, but is far from making nuclear bomb, officials say

The Star Online has reported that the United States believes Iran has enough nuclear fuel to make a bomb. This is according to U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who said so on Sunday. Mullen made the comments on air during CNN's "State of the Union" program.

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

While Mullen believes Iran has enough nuclear fuel to make a bomb, it should be noted that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that Iran is not even close to actually building a weapon (Los Angeles Times).

The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Tehran may have one third more enriched uranium than originally stated, based on an IAEA's report.

The U.S. suspects Iran of using its nuclear program to build an atomic bomb, but Tehran say that their enriched uranium is for generation of electricity. President Barack Obama has refered to Iran's nuclear program as an "urgent problem."

The IAEA said that Iran's understatement of the amount of uranium may not have been on purpose, and that Iran is working with them in order to avoid any more miscalculations of uranium amounts.

February 22, 2009

Gas Explosion Kills 74 in China

Yahoo News has reported that 74 people have been killed and 114 are being hospitalized after a gas explosion at a coal mine in northern China. The official Xinhua News Agency said that 436 miners were in the coal mine at the time of the explosion.

All of the trapped miners had been found by late Sunday, the News Agency said. However it is unclear whether all the bodies have been recovered.

Shanxi Coking Coal Group is the owner of the mine. The company is China's largest producer of coking coal, second largest in the world. The mine produces 5 million tons of coking coal each year.

The death toll from the explosion is the highest in China since December 2007, when 105 miners were killed from a gas explosion in an unventilated tunnel in Linfen City, the State Administration of Work Safety said.

The New York Times said 3,200 people died in mining accidents in 2008, a 15 percent decrease from 2007.

Zhao Tiechui, a senior official in charge of coal mine supervision, said that coal mines often have the most serious accidents because a large number of them are operating illegally.

“The industry also sees the most frequent covering-up of accidents," Tiechui said.

February 15, 2009

Chavez Asks Venezuelans for Extended Term

President Hugo Chavez is looking to lengthen his term as leader by asking Venezuelans to overlook the constitutional ammendment that would not allow him to run after 2012, Yahoo News reported. Chavez says that he is the only leader who can transform Venezuela into a socialist state.

People had been waiting in line before the polls opened at 6 a.m. and according to Chavez, 40 percent of those people registered before noon.

Those who support Chavez cite his record of giving unwealthy Venezuelans free education, quality healthcare, and cheap food. Those against Chavez say he is too powerful, since the election council, courts, and legislature are all controlled by him.

Venezuela has had 15 referendums already during Chavez's presidency and Chavez says that another referendum may be in the works, even if he loses.

Both Ecuador and Bolivia have already changed their constitutions to allow a less stringent re-election process. Nicaragua is also planning to propose an amendment that would allow their president, Daniel Ortega, to run for another term in office.

The Obama Administration has so far played a quiet role in in regards to Venezuela, The New York Times reported.

“That’s an internal matter with regard to Venezuela,? Robert Wood, a State Department spokesman, said.

February 8, 2009

Australian Fires Kill 49

Forty-nine people have died from what is being called Australia's worst fire disaster in a quarter-century, according to The Associated Press.
A record of 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 C) made for perfect conditions for blazes. Witnesses described seeing trees explode and skies full of ash, reported the The New York Times.
Police are still trying to confirm the details of the deaths from the fire, but they believe that charred bodies found in cars points to people being engulfed in flames as they were attempting to flee.
NASA released photos of the fire that could be seen as a white cloud of smoke from their satellite.
The largest fire of about a dozen in Victoria went through farmland, forests, and towns north of Melbourne. A goldrush town northeast of Melbourne has almost been completely destroyed.
"Marysville is no more," Senior Constable Brian Cross said.
Temperatures are expected to cool to around 77 degrees Farenheit Sunday, however wind changes due to this cooling may push the fire in unexpected directions.
Some of the fires may have been set on purpose, Kieran Walshe, the Deputy Commissioner said. Walshe predicted that it would be a number of days before the blazes are able to be controlled.
''Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria in the last 24 hours,'' Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said.

January 31, 2009

Ahmed Sworn In As New Somalian President

Months after his Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia signed a peace deal, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was sworn in as president, Al Jazeera reports.
Ahmed defeated Maslah Mohamed Siad by a vote of 293 to 126. At his swearing in ceremony in Djibouti, Ahmed promised to form a broad government and also to reach out to former government leaders like the former armed wing of the Islamic Courts movement, al-Shabab.
"Very soon, I will form a government which represents the people of Somalia," Ahmed said.
The election of Ahmed is seen as a stark contrast from the previous president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who was known for his warlike manner. Ahmed is said to be more scholarly and temporate.
Somalis numbering in the thousands could be seen singing and whistling as they celebrated their new president, The New York Times reported.
While the election of Ahmed appears optomistic, Somalis have reason to be skeptical, as 13 previous attempts at forming an effective transitional government have all failed, The New York Times said.