December 7, 2008

Riots Continue in Greek Cities

The International Herald Tribune and The BBC both reported Sunday on riots that broke out in Athens and other Greek cities after police killed a young boy.

The International Herald Tribune reports that a policeman shot 15-year-old Andreas Grigoropoulos in the chest during a confrontation between a group of Greek teenagers and police Saturday night.

Grigoropoulos died en-route to a medical facility.

The Tribune reports that confrontations between Athens police and far-leftist teenage protesters are common in the Exarchia neighborhood of central Athens.

As news of the shooting spread, hundreds of youth began rioting in Athens and in other Greek cities including Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki and on the island of Crete.

Young people set fire to shops cars and businesses while throwing fire bombs and stones at police, who retaliated with tear gas. At least six people were arrested in Athens for looting goods from the debris of destroyed storefronts.

The BBC reports that young people protesting the shooting were also carrying a banner calling the police "murderers."

The BBC also reports that two officers have been arrested in connection with the shooting.

In a statement, the police said their car had been attacked by about 30 youths. One officer fired a stun grenade and another shot and fatally wounded the boy.

A similar shooting incident in 1985 led to a lengthy battle between the young people of Greece and police. The violence in this instance lasted for years.

November 30, 2008

Swiss Voters Reject Marijuana Legalization, but Approve Heroin Prescriptions

Bloomberg News and the BBC both reported Sunday that Swiss voters rejected a proposal to legalize marijuana, but approved a measure that would provide prescription heroin to addicts on a permanent basis.

Bloomberg reported that 64% of voters opposed loosening laws on marijuana, but 68% of voters approved the plan to offer heroin prescriptions.

The BBC reports that the heroin plan, which allows addicts to inject the drug under medical supervision at a clinic, began in Zurich 14 years ago before spreading across the country.

Supporters say it works, by getting long-term addicts out of Switzerland's once notorious "needle parks" and reducing drug-related crime.

The BBC also reports that Swiss law enforcement typically turn a blind eye to cannabis use.

Recent studies suggesting that long-term use of the drug could be more harmful than previously thought may be the reason voters turned down the measure.

The ‚ÄúHemp Initiative‚Ä? would have freed the Swiss to use and grow cannabis for their own use.

November 23, 2008

Zimbabwe's President Mugabe Denies Carter and Annan access to the country

The New York Times and the BBC both covered the Zimbabwean Government's refusal to allow Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and Nelson Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, visas to enter the country.

Mugabe's foreign minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, denied that the three had been refused visas, saying only that they had been asked to postpone their visit until a later date.

A BBC African correspondent said the move was clearly a blatant rejection of the leaders by Mugabe.

Carter, Annan and Machel all said the visit's sole intent was a humanitarian mission to help the people of Zimbabwe, and not to interfere in any political negotiations.

The BBC article also includes a brief recap of recent political talks between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

The NY Times article says that Mugabe's refusal of Visas was a measure of his disdain for the international opinion of his governing policies.

‚ÄúIt seems obvious to me that leaders of the government are immune to reaching out for help for their own people,‚Ä? Carter said at a news conference in Johannesburg.

Carter also said he was very surprised by the government's action saying he has never before been denied a visa.

November 16, 2008

Iraqi Cabinet Supports Withdrawal Date for US Troops

The Times of London and the BBC both reported Sunday that the Iraqi Cabinet has approved a deal that would require US troops to be off the streets of Iraqi towns by the end of next year, and out of the country by 2011.

US officials also support the agreement, which still must pass through the Iraqi parliament before becoming official.

The BBC lays out the points of the deal:

The deal would place US forces in Iraq under the authority of the Iraqi government.

US forces would be required to leave the streets of Iraqi towns by mid-2009.

Control of US military bases in Iraq would be turned over to Iraqi control during the course of 2009.

The deal also removes the right of US forces to raid Iraqi homes without an official order from an Iraqi judge, and approval of the Iraqi government.

The Times quotes Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as saying, "We think it is a good agreement for Iraq and the United States.‚Ä?

Many groups remain opposed to the measures, however.

Al-Mahdi Army, Iraq's largest Shia militia, wants US troops out immediately, and has threatened renewed attacks on US forces.

Iraq's influential Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, opposes any agreement with the US. He has called for mass protests and demonstrations in opposition to the deal.

The BBC also reports there are mixed opinions among Iraqi citizens. Some believe that making any agreements with the US government shames the country. Others trust that the Iraqi cabinet knows what is best for the people, and support the pact.

November 9, 2008

Tsvangirai rejects sharing Zimbabwe ministry

The BBC and ="">Al Jazeera both reported Sunday on Morgan Tsvangirai's rejection of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's suggestion of a sharing of ministry power.

Al Jazeera reports that Tsvangirai and Mugabe agreed to form a unity government two months ago, but the deal failed to take hold over disputes on forming a cabinet and control of key ministries.

One of the major issues in the compromise over the sharing of ministry power has been over the control of the home affairs ministry.

Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an emergency summit Sunday to address pressing issues of the power struggle in Zimbabwe. Leaders at the summit supported shared power between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.

Tsvangirai rejected the idea. In a press conference he stated that the SADC lacked the "courage and decency to look Robert Mugabe in the eyes" and tell him his position was wrong.

Al Jazeera also provides a summary description of the election process in Zimbabwe and the issues that lead to the current power struggles.

They describe how Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the presidential election, but did not garner enough votes to prevent a runoff. Mugabe was reelected after Tsvangirai pulled out of the second round due to violence against his supporters.

The BBC reported the following quote from Tsvangirai in a press conference stating his rejection of the compromise:

"This issue of co-sharing does not work. We have said so ourselves, we have rejected it, and that's the position," said Tsvangirai.

The BBC also reports that Mugabe has accepted the deal but that Tsvangirai will now hope the matter is taken from SADC and passed on to other bodies like the UN.

The summit also backed an immediate ceasefire in the DR Congo, where rebel fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people.

November 2, 2008

Budget Airline to Offer 8 Pound Flights To US

Both the BBC and the Irish Times reported that popular budget airline Ryanair has announced plans to offer ultra-cheap transatlantic flights from the UK to the US.

The Irish Times article reports that flights could begin early next year, and they are likely to fly out of both Dublin and London's Stansted Airports to New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

The cheap flights would be available for those booking early, and passengers would pay airport taxes on top of the fare.

The BBC reported that the flights would cost 8 pounds, while the Irish Times reported they would start at 10 pounds.

The BBC also reports that Ryanair profits are at 145m euros, down from 260m euros last year.

While the Irish Times reports that Ryanair has benefitted from lower oil costs, the BBC notes that analysts are reporting Ryanair may still be suffering because it insured against changing fuel costs at too high a price.

October 26, 2008

Congo Rebels Seize Army Camp

The BBC reported today that rebels fighting government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo have captured an army camp in the east of the country.

The rebels have also taken control of Virunga National park, which is home to most of the world's mountain gorillas. Over 50 of the park's rangers have been forced to flee into the forest.

200,000 people have fled their homes since fighting resumed in the area in late August.

UN peacekeeping forces say an unknown number of rebels, government soldiers and civilians have been killed.

Eastern DRC is facing a humanitarian crisis, as many of those forced to flee are facing malnourishment.

Reuters South Africa quoted Park Ranger Bareke Sekibibi as saying, "When the rebels started approaching the park station we thought we were all going to be killed."

They also add that the rangers were forced to walk through the forest to Kibumba, 12 miles south of Rumangabo, where trucks would then take them to the provincial capital Goma, de Merode said.

October 19, 2008

47 Convicted in Moroccan Suicide Bombing

The NY Times posted a brief report that 47 people have been convicted in connection to a 2007 Internet cafe bombing in Casablanca.

Through the investigation police discovered a plot involving dozens of suspects planning to attack Casablanca’s port and police stations, as well as tourist sites around Morocco.

The BBC posted a much more in depth story about the convictions.

The BBC's James Copnall reported that there are currently nearly 1,000 Islamic radicals in Moroccan jails, and that human rights groups have accused authorities of making arrests on false or flimsy evidence.

The harshest sentence received was 30-years, and 44 others people were sentenced to between two and 15 years. One person received a suspended sentence, and four others were acquitted.

The leader of the plot detonated explosives to avoid being arrested after the cafe owner caught him viewing jihadist websites and attempted to stop him.

The blast occurred in a slum area of the city that was home to 13 suicide bombers who carried out a series of suicide bombings in 2003 which left 33 people dead.

October 12, 2008

Former Finnish President Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.

The BBC reported that Ahtisaari, 71, was selected from a pool of 197 candidates.

Ahtisaari will be receiving the award in recognition for his efforts in non-violent conflict resolution.

The award includes a gold medal, a diploma and 10 million Swedish Kroner ($1.4 million).

The BBC also included a short list of other people rumored to be up for the award. Zimbabwean politician Morgan Tsvangirai and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt were said to be at the top of the list.

Ahtisaari said he felt his greatest accomplishment was resolving conflicts in Namibia. He oversaw the move to independence from South Africa in the late 1970s and also assisted in supervising free elections.

An Al Jazeera English story focused more on Ahtisaari's work in Indonesia, providing a summary of his work in forming the Aceh Monitoring Mission.

"But definitely I was hoping, because this is the highest recognition that a person in my profession can have," Ahtisaari said after the announcement.

"I think it's very rewarding to be in the same category as some people I have admired like Mandela."

September 28, 2008

Chinese Astronauts Return to Earth After Space Walk

Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth Sunday after completing a three-day spacewalk mission, CNN reports.

China's first-ever spacewalk, which was conducted by astronaut Zhai Zhigang.

"It was a glorious mission, full of challenges with a successful end," astronaut Zhai Zhigang said according to The Associated Press. "We feel proud of the motherland."

A live television broadcast of the landing showed the astronauts emerging from their landing module, and sitting in chairs saluting the cameras.

The first spacewalk occurred Saturday when Zhai spent 13 minutes outside of the spacecraft.

The next major goal of China's spaceflight program is to construct their own space station. This spacewalk was the first step toward that goal.

CNN also notes that coverage of this event in China's state-controlled media has largely overshadowed coverage of their recent contaminated milk scandal.

As The Independent reports, some concerns have been raised about China's future intentions for their space program.

China's national pride is now largely wrapped up in this new endeavor, and their government backs the missions with full support. Though, as The Independent points out, their support continues while 1 in 10 citizens live on less than $1 per day, and 50,000 babies have recently been sickened by tainted milk.

China's rise to become one of the world's largest forces has been mostly peaceful to date, but many warn that this recent mission is cause for vigilance.

There is no international regulatory framework that prohibits China, or any other nation, from furthering space programs for militaristic use.

September 21, 2008

Pakistan Hotel Bombing Kills 53

A Marriot Hotel in Pakistan's capital was attacked Saturday, when a truck blew up in the hotel entrance, the BBC reported.

At least 53 people have died and 266 others were injured in the blast. Among those killed, most were Pakistani. The Czech Ambassador was among those killed. Both US and Vietnamese citizens were also killed.

The truck had been stopped for a security check at the heavily guarded hotel when the bomb went off.

A camera recorded the moments before the explosion when the truck slammed into a security barrier, but the main explosion was not recorded as the camera was destroyed in the blast.

President Bush pledged to help Pakistan in "confronting this threat and bringing the perpetrators to justice."

No one has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack, but according to the Pakistani Interior Ministry the attackers are linked to Islamist militants.

Al Jazeera reports that a senior official investigating the blast said that the bombing "has the hallmarks of Al Qaeda."

Investigators said the bomb contained more than 500kg of explosives.

The blast was heard miles away and it left an enormous crater in its wake.

September 14, 2008

Suspects arrested after series of bombings in New Delhi

Police have several suspects in custody after a series of bombings in New Delhi on Saturday, the BBC reports.

At least 20 people were killed and 90 were reported injured after 5 separate devices went off in busy shopping centers.
10 people are being questioned after a Muslim militant group claimed responsibility for the bombings via an e-mail that was sent to Indian media outlets.
Four additional bombs were found and diffused Saturday, police said.
Several officials have publicly condemned the attacks, including the Mayor of Delhi, Arti Mehra; the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari; British Justice Minister, Jack Straw; and the U.S. Ambassador in Delhi, David Mulford.

Indian police are now conducting a manhunt for additional suspects in the bombings, The Times of India reports.
Police are searching for 8 persons suspected in the bombings, including a known Mumbai bomb-maker, Abdul Subhan, who is believed to be the mastermind behind the attacks.