Global News Briefs: Around The World, Issue 30

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United States: No Fairy Tale Ending for Bush

After years of being one of the most despised and parodied U.S. Presidents of all time, George Bush Jr. was likely hoping to serve out his last few months quietly. He probably was praying that he would at least have a couple little successes to point to in the closing stages, perhaps the economy would turn rosy, or maybe work he’d done in the Middle East peace process would lead to a breakthrough. Maybe the trillion dollar military adventures he undertook would have some silver linings. Unfortunately, for all of us, it seems like things are actually going to get worse in the short term and any progress for America will take place when the next President is in power. In fact, the next President will actually look pretty brilliant in comparison as the Bush era policies are reversed.

Caribbean: Trouble in Paradise

The islands and nations of the Caribbean have many gifts: wonderful weather, nice sandy beaches, a stunning mix of natural and cultural beauty. Unfortunately, many of these places are making names for themselves in a very different way. The English-speaking Caribbean has one of the highest crime and murder rates of any region in the world, led by Jamaica (60 murders per 100,000 people) and Trinidad (31/100,000). Compare that to Canada with a rate of less than 2 murders per 100,000. The rise is blamed on the drug trade which has created a glorified culture of criminal behaviour and a steady supply of weapons. Added to the mix are thousands of criminals deported back to the Caribbean from Canada, USA and Britain over the last decade. Crime drives away tourism, investment, and talented citizens looking for a safer place to live.

Argentina: Vote for me! I’m Wonderful!

A well publicized global popularity contest for man-made wonders came to an end last summer (winners included the Great Wall of China, the Pyramind at Giza, the Roman Colosseum). Now it’s nature’s turn as the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World contest gets under way. Nominations are currently being submitted. Each country puts together an organizing committee to promote their nation’s top natural treasure and hopefully push it into the finals. National tourist boards are eagerly hoping a win will drive more travellers to their countries. Argentina is betting on the stunning Iguazu Falls, by many measures the largest waterfall in the world, and probably the most beautiful to behold. The three-year long contest will be selected by online voting with seven “winners” announced in 2011. Check out the site for yourself.

South Ossetia: Georgia Gets a Russian Smackdown

Originally part of the Russian and Soviet empires, Georgia decided to challenge its former overlord this summer, and paid heavily for it. With a population of four million and land the size of New Brunswick, the breakup with Russia in 1991 wasn’t a perfect split. As it turns out, just as Georgia wanted to split from Russia, certain parts of Georgia wanted to split from Georgia because they weren’t ethnically Georgian at all. A couple of these regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence and were backed by Russia. This August, Georgia attacked South Ossetia, breaking a longstanding ceasefire and killing some Russian peacekeepers in the process. Hmm, bad move. Russia struck hard, crippling Georgia’s air force and navy almost instantly and the Russian army quickly pushed the Georgians out of South Ossetia.

Taiwan: Where’s the Tofu?

Over a million people in this island nation have signed a pledge to stop eating meat to help save the planet. The “No Meat, No Heat” commitment to vegetarian diets came from numerous celebrities and top politicians. While the concept seems simplistic, the numbers behind the data are very powerful. The U.N. estimates animal farming produces a full 18% of global greenhouse gases (worse than cars). Meat farms take up 26% of all ice-free land on the planet. And rainforests are being ripped down daily to make more cattle farms. Oh, and one last one– producing all the stuff that goes into a single hamburger uses 4550 litres of water! The human population is exploding beyond the planet’s ability to sustain it.

India: The Asian Space Invasion

Longthe realm of the Americans and the Russians, the race to control space has been joined by several Asian nations. It’s already been five years since China became the third country to send a human into space, and a September space walk is planned. Japan has launched over a hundred satellites into orbit and now India is getting ready for its first mission to the moon. Named Chandrayaan-1 the mission will put an unmanned spacecraft into an orbit around the moon and then send a probe to land on the surface of the moon. This is the first mission in what looks to be a true race to the moon for India, as they strive to put an Indian on the moon by 2020. They’ll be facing stiff competition from the USA, Russia, Europe, China and Japan, who is hoping to have a moon base in place around 2030!

United Arab Emirates: Sex on the Beach

A drunken British couple have been jailed for a late night make-out session on the beach in the booming city of Dubai. While they both deny having gone “all the way” they have been charged with breaking Dubai’s strict ban on sex outside of marraige, and will likely face substantial jail sentences. The arrests highlight the clash of cultures as Dubai tries to become a playground for foreigners while still maintaining a strict Islamic lifestyle for its own people, who now make up only 19% of the population. Kissing in public, homosexuality, drugs, pornography and sex between unmarried couples is illegal, while alcohol is only served at high-end hotels. Generally, the government tries to look the other way when it comes to foreigners but it seems this couple pushed things too far.

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