International News Belt

Europe

Riot police clash with strikers outside a major oil refinery in France as the forces attempt to put an end to the 10-day-long blockade of the terminal. The action was prompted when the protests against the government’s plans to increase retirement age caused thousands of petrol stations across France to run dry.

A Dutch ferry was overturned after colliding with a German freight ship on the Amsterdam-Rhine canal. Divers and a helicopter with thermal image have been deployed but no victims have been found so far.

Asia

China’s Internet censorship ways are spreading to south-east Asia. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma and the Philippines are moving towards blocking ‘critical’ content online to stifle dissent.

Tibetan students in China protesting for the right to study in their own language have increased in numbers. The movement formed in response to unconfirmed reports of plans to replace the Tibetan language with Chinese in classrooms.

Americas

President Obama speaks out against bullying in light of recent suicides of gay teenagers in America. An array of politicians, celebrities and bloggers have spoken out for the ‘It Gets Better Project’, launched last month by activist Dan Savage.

Former Canadian air force commander sentenced for life for murders of two women. Colonel Russell Williams also pleaded guilty to sexual assault and 82 counts of breaking and entering to steal women’s underwear.

Africa

Guinea presidential election may be delayed for a third time. The computers for vote-counting having been stolen and the failure to distribute key materials may stop the first democratic election in Guinea in 52 years set to happen on Sunday.

Stowaway crocodile may have caused plane crash in Congo. The disaster that killed 19 people and a British Pilot in August may have been due to an escaped crocodile causing panic on board, as told by the sole survivor.

Drilling Deep Again

By Marii Stoltsen

Activists fear there is a danger of a new oil spill as the UK government throw themselves in the midst of a new drilling contract.  With the devastation still prominent on the Gulf Coast, there is a worry that no lessons have been learned from the latest environmental disaster.

Last week, UK energy secretary, Chris Huhne, issued a license to Chevron allowing them to commence drilling an exploratory well in the Lagavulin prospect north of Shetland. The license was granted after a vote of the European Parliament turned out against a moratorium on deep sea drilling for oil and gas.

The decision went through despite days of protests by activists who deemed the move ‘irresponsible’. A spokesperson for Greenpeace said: “I think the oil companies and governments are not in the position to deal with such problems, the measures to tackle the disasters are not in place, as can be seen from the long response times in the BP crisis.

“We need to reassess what measures are in place before any more licenses for deep water drilling are given out.”

The vote also addressed the need for tighter safety regulations and increased compensation in the event of a spillage, which was approved by 601 MEPs. The EU energy council is expected to discuss these issues at next week’s meeting.

The location of the drilling also presents a problem for the locals. According to the West Lothian Council, around a fifth of Scotland’s population lives within a kilometre of the sea and the fishing and marine industry generates billions of pounds for the economy every year. In the case of a spillage, the clean-up could take months to complete and create irreversible damage as has been the case in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mumbai Menace threatens to continue as more bombs are found

by Marii Stoltsen

In a response to criticisms about intelligence and security failures, the active police force in Mumbai conducted

Condoleezza Rice giving a speech in the US embassy in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008

Condoleezza Rice giving a speech in the US embassy in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008

raids of locations targeted in last week’s brutal attacks and discovered two four-kilogram bombs hidden in a bag at Chhatrapati Shivaji train station. The police, who had reopened the station on the Thursday following the attacks after declaring it safe, are not sure why the bombs were not found earlier and fears of new attacks have surfaced.

The attacks, which killed 171 people and injured 239, are suspected to be the work of the outlawed Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, who were also responsible for the Mumbai train bombings of 2006. The fears of more attacks in the near future were solidified as interrogations with the only surviving attacker confirmed the existence of specialised Lashkar camps for terror action in Pakistan.

The American and British governments, whose citizen’s were the main targets of the attacks, are demanding Pakistan cooperate in the investigation into the three-day terrorist siege. US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice arrived in New Delhi today to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other officials, calling for “resolve and urgency” from Pakistan in dealing with the matter. Pakistan’s president Asif Zardari assured that he would “look into all the possibility of any proof” and insists that the 20 suspected terrorists be tried under Pakistani law.

The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, expressed in an interview that “the modern threat to Pakistan does not come from India…[it] comes from within,” and insists that the Western nations have a duty to help Pakistan tackle terrorism through improving their security, the economy, and the political system. With the Mumbai terrorist attacks bringing the Pakistan situation to the forefront of national issues, the pressure is on the West to act.

President Bush declares a “new chapter” in international relations in the face of expanding Visa Waiver Program

By Marii Stoltsen

On October 17, President George W. Bush played host to the representatives of seven countries as he declared their inclusion into the United States Visa Waiver Program (VWP) starting November, 17. Under the law, the citizens of these countries – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea – will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without visa for up to 90 days, finally receiving the same privilege they have accorded to US citizens for years.

President Bush accounted for the delay by stating that after the events of September 11 the US “could only expand travel opportunities if [they] increased security measures at the same time.” The countries joining the VWP in November have agreed to implement the Electronic System for Travel Authorization [ESTA] for screening passengers that requires them to register online at least two days ahead of their visits to the United States. In addition to this, anyone wishing to travel to the States must own a tamper-proof biometric passport.

This announcement marked the first step of success in the Administration’s effort to modernise the VWP, as well as the realisation of the President’s belief that “the best foreign policy for America is one that lets visitors get to know this great country firsthand.” The representatives of Bulgaria, Cyrpus, Greece, Malta, Poland, and Romania also attended the press conference as the members of the six countries currently participating in the “visa waiver road map” process.

Currently there are 27 countries included in the VWP and these new additions set high hopes for other countries seeking to solidify their alliance to the United States. With one of the most isolationist nations opening up to all parts of the world and extending trust, a new chapter in international relations has indeed begun.

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