Global News Briefs: Around The World, Issue 18

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WASHINGTON – Four More Years

This January George Bush II begins his second term as President after being rewarded by a majority of American voters. Despite much of the world’s population hoping he’d lose (only 17% of Canadians wanted Bush to win) Bush’s campaign managers did an excellent job of motivating church-going Americans to come out to the polls in record numbers. In a very positive development, young voters also came out to vote in record numbers with 52% of them voting (mostly for Kerry) versus only 36% in 1996. Let’s hope youth participation in elections is a permanent trend so governments will start to pay more attention to the issues that matter to youth.

WAY UP THERE- Faster Planes and Slower Spacecraft

The world’s fastest plane, a pilot-less experimental jet, flew at the sizzling speed of 9.6 times the speed of sound (Mach 9.6 or roughly 11,000 km/h), blowing away its old speed record of Mach 6.8. Despite the success, the NASA run project is being pushed aside to focus on developing a replacement for the space shuttle and on two pet projects of President Bush: flying men to the Moon within 10 years and, soon after, to Mars. Meanwhile, after 15 months of flight a European spacecraft is now in orbit around the moon for the first time, only America and Russia have accomplished the feat. The Europeans tested a new solar power system, which worked better than expected.

CHILE – Divorce Allowed In Chile

Chile passed a new law allowing married couples to divorce, making it one of the last countries in the world to do so. Only Malta and The Philippines still ban divorces. Chileans were overwhelmingly in favour of making divorce legal although the Roman Catholic Church argued strongly that allowing divorce would be a threat to marriage and to families. Over 70% of Chileans are Catholic. The new law requires a separation period of at least one year before couples agreeing to split up can get an official divorce.

SWITZERLAND – The Alps Melting Away

Warmer summers, particularly in Europe, are taking their toll on ski hills everywhere but this is especially true for the famous Alps, home to some of the most beautiful ski resorts in the world. Year-round tourism to the Alps is a major part of the Swiss economy. Summer glacier skiing is in risk as Swiss glaciers have shrunk by 20% over the last 25 years. Shorter winters are impacting winter skiing as well. The retreating glaciers leave barren and rocky valleys that are prone to rock slides and flash floods. The Himalayan mountains, including Mount Everest, have also seen significant melting. Unless the current climate trends reverse, many of these great ice-capped mountains could be nothing but rock.

EGYPT – A Plague of Locusts

It was like a story out of the Bible, as millions of flying pink desert locusts (a type of grasshopper) swarmed into Egypt for the first time in 50 years. The swarms arrived on strong winds after they spent months devouring the countryside in many parts of western and central Africa. This has been one of the worst years for locusts although the food crops were not as damaged as originally expected. Nevertheless, there was still a great deal of destruction, the country of Mauritania, for example, had half of its cereal crops consumed. A swarm can contain 40 to 80 million insects per square kilometre and travel up to 130 kilometres a day.

IRAQ – Iraqi Resistance Fights On

The job of the American occupation forces in Iraq isn’t getting any easier. As they continue to impose military rule on this country of 25 million, the underground Iraqi resistance appears to be getting better organized. The resistance goal is to stop the Americans from making any progress in rebuilding Iraq. That means sabotaging oil pipelines, killing government officials and police officers seen as loyal to the U.S. command, striking the U.S. troops and reconstruction crews with roadside bombs and suicide attacks. With the U.S. elections out of the way, Bush has stepped up the war against the resistance as American soldiers continue to die in alarming numbers.

CHINA – CN Tower Crown To Topple

Relocation work has started in the Chinese city of Guangzhou to build the world’s tallest tower which will stand almost 600 metres high, beating out Toronto’s CN Tower which is 553 metres high. The CN Tower is an amazing piece of architecture and has held the title of the world’s tallest free standing structure since it was built in 1976. Like the CN Tower, the new Chinese tower will be a TV transmission tower and will include bars, restaurants and tourist observation sections. Around 200 families will have to be moved to make room for the new tower. Chinese officials are hoping that the tower will be completed in 2008.

INDONESIA – Hobbit-Like Species Discovered

A new species of human has been found on the tropical island of Flores. Although now extinct, this three-foot high cousin of ours was living as recently as 14,000 years ago and perhaps much more recently and may have come in contact with our own race of humans which had already been migrating for thousands of years through the South Pacific islands. It is suggested these people evolved in isolation on the island having descended from another extinct cousin Homo Erectus. Modern islanders tell folktales of a race of shy little people that lived in the island‘s caves as recently as 500 years ago.

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