Global News Briefs: Around The World, Issue 22

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Read, contemplate, comment, discuss


The Entire Planet – It’s Getting Hot In Here…

thermometer2005 will be one for the record books. Many meteorologists see it as the hottest year ever measured. Some have suggested the Earth hasn’t been this hot in 5,000-6,000 years. Notably, the waters of the Caribbean were the warmest on record, helping to fuel the most active hurricane season ever seen, with 26 named storms and 14 hurricanes. One of these, Hurricane Katrina, killed over 1,200 people and caused about 100 billion dollars in damage. Up north the Arctic ice cap shrank this summer to perhaps its smallest size in the last century. Down south, the Amazon rainforest experienced a record drought.

The World – Did That Pigeon Just Cough?

Sensationalist TV news programmes love nothing more than a good doomsday scenario and they’ve been making the most of the possibility of an Asian bird flu mutating into a deadly new form that could spread between humans. Currently, this virus strain is killing millions of chickens and ducks in Asia (where they are typically kept in horrific, unhealthy conditions). A small number of humans have died recently, generally after being in contact with infected poultry or raw poultry products. Some suggest it is only a matter of time until the world sees a deadly flu pandemic while skeptics argue it could be decades away and that modern science and communications would minimize the damage.

United States – Punishment By a Thousand Deaths…

US Flag

After a temporary ban on death as a punishment for criminals, America began executing again in 1976, and the tally since reinstatement has now hit 1,000 people. The U.S. remains virtually the only Western country with state-sponsored executions and is a world leader in the practice along with China and Iran. America has also executed more prisoners convicted of crimes committed while in their teenage years than any country in the modern era, but in 2005 U.S. courts banned executions for juvenile crimes. The U.S. also has the largest prison population in the entire world, with 2.1 million people in jail, up from 770,000 in 1990.

Somalia – Pirates On The Open Sea…


As if sea sickness, sharks and sunburns weren’t enough for cruise ship passengers to be concerned about; now it’s pirates. Oh yes, there are actually pirates lurking around out there (and this isn’t a plug for some new Disney flick). Every year there are hundreds of pirate attacks on freighters and private yachts but a recent attack on a five-star luxury cruise ship off the coast of Somalia took things to a new level. Pirates in two boats fired machine guns and rocket propelled grenades at the 200-passenger ship. The cruise ship narrowly escaped by speeding up to avoid being boarded and crew also fought back with a hightech sonic cannon originally designed by the military.

Italy – Let It Snow, Let It Snow…

Italy flag

The Olympic circus rolls into the Italian Alps this February for the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, also known as Turin to non-Italians. Canadian athletes will be looking to shine again this time, putting our apparent love of snow and ice to good use, by being one of the dominant countries at the Winter Games. In Salt Lake City 2002 the Canadian team came fourth out of 77 countries in gold and total medals standings. The men’s and women’s hockey teams in particular will be looking to defend the gold medals they won four years ago and our downhill skiers are also looking strong. Canada will host the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler.

China – The Fur Trade: Cats and Dogs…


While cats and dogs often end up in cooking pots around the world, much to the disgust of animal lovers, only recently is the mainstream media reporting about the huge trade in cat and dog fur. It is estimated that over two million dogs and cats are killed each year in China for their fur. The fur is used for trim on clothing and can often be cheaper for garment manufacturers to buy than synthetic “faux-fur”. While animal fur and hides are farmed in nearly every country (including Canada), recent video footage of the Chinese treatment and slaughter of the cats and dogs have horrified millions and have prompted calls for bans on importing fur based products from China.

Pakistan – Shaking Things Up…


It’s been a tough year for Asia and earthquakes. Asian coastal nations were recovering from the massive Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which killed an estimated 250,000 people, of which one third was children and another half women. In October a major inland quake rocked the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan. Most of the worst hit areas were mountainous communities and rescue attempts have been hindered by landslides and blocked roads. The death toll is already near 100,000 and is expected to rise as aid has been slow to reach millions of injured and homeless survivors facing the severe Himalayan winter cold.

Iran – If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say…


Not generally known for charming and politically correct discourse, the current President of Iran is stirring up more controversy than normal. In recent speeches President Ahmadinejad has suggested Israel should be “wiped off the map” and “moved to Europe” where Nazi atrocities took place. The world has generally been united in strongly condemning the comments. Iran, a leading oil producer, is currently facing off with Western countries over its determination to process uranium for nuclear power plants, which can also be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran already has missiles that can reach Israel and supports groups the West consider terrorists.

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