Read, contemplate, comment, discuss
The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians continues with a horrible day-to-day loss of life. There seems to be no break in violence, as both sides have refused to come to the negotiating table with any compromises. The main sticking point remains dividing ownership of Jerusalem, a city of strong religious importance to both sides. While most of the victims of the violence are Palestinians, most of the rioting and confrontations with the Israeli military are initiated by the frustrated Palestinians.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian to walk in space during a late April space shuttle mission. Hadfield performed the crucial installation of the Canadarm2 onto the International Space Station. The giant claw is 17 metres long, weighs 1.5 tonnes and is the most complicated piece of robotic equipment ever taken into space. This was Hadfield’s second shuttle mission: he previously became the only Canadian to visit the Russian Mir space station, which was disabled and ditched in the Pacific in March.
Albanian rebels in the Baltic country of Macedonia are trying to stir sympathy for independence by attacking Macedonian forces. The relatively peaceful country, of which 23% are ethnic Albanians, is effectively at war trying to contain the violence. The Albanian guerillas hope to repeat the tactics of their cousins in Kosovo: through terrorist attacks they hope to provoke a violent response from the army and then gain international sympathy as persecuted victims, thus winning support for their independence.
The biggest slaughter of farm animals in history continues in Europe in an attempt to control an outbreak of “foot and mouth” disease. The disease causes farm mammals to develop blisters on the mouth and feet. The disease does not affect humans. Over a million pigs, sheep and cattle have been killed as a precaution. With profits in mind, farmers and government have opted for slaughter over vaccination because they want to be able to export their meat to “virus-free” countries like the U.S.
The United States has pulled out of the Kyoto Agreement, an international plan to reduce burning of fossil fuels that cause “greenhouse” gases and global warming. President Bush has been swayed by reports that suggest cutting back emissions would be too costly for the economy and also refers to studies suggesting that the connection between the gases and global warming is still questionable. There was also concern that the Agreement did not include developing countries. Environmental groups and many countries reacted strongly to the U.S. move.
Napster continues to die a slow death as the record companies squeeze tighter and tighter. Problems connecting slow service and reduced numbers of users and songs are turning many people off the file sharing service. Perhaps people just overdosed on Napster when the courts were threatening to shut it down. However, the next generation Gnutella-based file sharing programs, e.g. BearShare, are becoming more popular, as expected. These new services have no central server or company behind them for the companies to shutdown or sue.
A lot of arm-twisting allowed President Bush to push through a historical and massive tax cut for the American people. The President got the support needed for his US$1.6 trillion tax cut with promises to increase spending on education, farmers, military and the handicapped. Slashing the taxes that people and companies pay the government should boost the North American economy. Canada, already with much higher taxes than the U.S., will be under pressure to lower taxes to avoid losing more businesses and professionals to the States.
After years of turmoil, Western ally Turkey will try to stabilize the economy with help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an organization that aims to help countries struggling with crippling inflation, banking corruption and other financial disasters. The IMF will offer US$12 billion to prop up the economy in exchange for Western-style financial reforms. Many are against the IMF-based reform, especially labour unions angry their pay increases will be limited while the country tries to gets back on its feet.
Get ready for Toronto 2008! The race to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games will be decided at a meeting in Moscow on July 13th. The top two contenders are be Toronto and Beijing, with Osaka, Paris and Istanbul trailing. The recent pattern of rotating the summer games between American, European and Asian time zones will likely continue, leaving Toronto as the winner. Human rights issues, military tension between China and the U.S. should make any victory for Beijing an uphill battle.
South China Sea
A U.S. Navy spy-plane “accidentally” collided mid-air with a Chinese fighter jet that was forcing it away from Chinese territory. The damaged American plane made an emergency landing in China where authorities held 24 crewmembers briefly, stirring up a diplomatic storm. The Americans are regularly caught off China’s coast monitoring radio, telephones, pagers and faxes.
The incident worsens U.S.-China ties, already tense over China’s threats towards U.S. ally Taiwan, which China claims as a rebel province.