Tag Archives: International

International Round Up

Russia admits Syrian Government is losing territorial control

Syrian men break the concrete of a residential building destroyed in a government airstrike. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)
Syrian men break the concrete of a residential building destroyed in a government airstrike. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)

The situation in Syria is aggravating for the local Government. An official from the Russian Government has said for the first time that opposition forces might defeat Syrian government. The opposition is gaining legitimacy after more than 100 countries signed a declaration yesterday in Morocco to give it a political lift. The United States formally recognises the opposite party as “the legitimate representative” of the people in that country.


North Korea launches rocket ignoring UN Security Council

A screen shows the Unha-3 rocket being launched from a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at North Korea's satellite control centre in Cholsan county (AP)
A screen shows the Unha-3 rocket being launched from a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at North Korea’s satellite control centre in Cholsan county (AP)

The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea for launching what they consider to be a long-range missile, while Pyongyang states that it was a satellite. The Council is going to have a meeting next Wednesday to consider an “appropriate response” to the threat.

In the meantime, the US has considered the action as “a highly provocative act that threatens regional security.”  In a statement released last Friday, they announced their intention was to send warships to the Asian country.


The Eurozone agrees rules towards banking union

The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (Johannes Eisele/AFP) Photo/Johannes Eisele)
The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Economy and finance ministers have reached an agreement today on rules for supervising Eurozone banking. The biggest banks of the Union will be under the direct oversight of the European Central Bank.

The supervision will be made over the biggest banks, with assets over 30,000 millions or the 20% of the GDP. The main obstacle has been a disagreement over power distribution in terms of the supervisor. Germany wants to leave out regional banks, while France and Spain have asked the supervisor for an inspection of every bank, without exception.


Putin wants Russian couples to have at least 3 children

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state-of-the nation address in Moscow, Russia (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state-of-the nation address in Moscow, Russia (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The Russian president Vladimir Putin called on Russians to have at least three children each. He added that he wants people who own luxury goods to pay higher taxes.

After the end of the Soviet Union, the standard of living decreased due to a growth in the mortality rate and a substantial reduction of births. “In order for Russia to be a strong and sovereign country, there must be more of us and we must be better in morality, in our competences, our work and our creativity”, the Russian leader said.


Oregon mall gunman identified

Police handout photo of suspect from Tuesday's shooting in Happy Valley, Oregon (Clackamas County Sheriff's Office)
Police handout photo of suspect from Tuesday’s shooting in Happy Valley, Oregon (Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office)

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office have identified Jacob Tyler Roberts as the gunman who shot two people before killing himself in Oregon last Tuesday. According to Oregon law enforcement, he opened fire on a crowded Portland shopping mall and was shooting victims at random.

Roberts was armed with a stolen AR-15 semi-automatic rifle when he opened fire. Two victims were fatally shot, identified as Cindy Yuille, 54 and Steven Forsyth, 45. A third victim, 15 year-old Kristina Shevchenko, is still in serious condition at the Oregon Health and Science university Hospital, in Portland.


First Pope tweet in eight languages

Pope Benedict XVI sends his first tweet (EFE)
Pope Benedict XVI sends his first tweet (EFE)

The Pope has tweeted for the first time in eight languages in his eight Twitter accounts. “Dear friends,” he wrote, “I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”

He delivered it from a tablet computer at the end of a general audience in the Vatican, with a group of young people gathered round him and after an official announced: “And now the Pope will tweet!”. He has already reached over one million Twitter followers.


No progress in fiscal cliff talks

US House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)
US House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)

Large differences remain between congressional Republicans and the White House to avert the “fiscal cliff” of steep tax hikes and budget cuts. House Speaker John Boehner called on President Barack Obama to produce a new offer. “I was born with a glass half full. I remain the most optimistic person in this town. But we’ve got some serious differences,” Boehner has told reporters at a news conference.


Worldwide Geminid meteor shower tonight

A massive Geminid fireball from 2009's shower, one of the brightest ever recorded (NASA)
A massive Geminid fireball from 2009’s shower, one of the brightest ever recorded (NASA)

The annual meteor shower will reach its peak later tonight and into the early hours of Friday morning. The meteors will appear to radiate from a point near the star Castor, in the constellation Gemini. The skies will thus be free of the moon’s glare, allowing viewers in rural areas to see perhaps 100 or more meteors per hour, experts say.


International News in Brief

By Emma Smith

A German soldier has been by killed in a suicide bomb attack in the north of Afghanistan, raising the number of German soldiers killed to 44. Six others were also injured Thursday’s attack in Baghlan.

A UN employee has been kidnapped in Sudan’s Darfur region. The employee, who was working with peacekeepers, was snatched from his residence in the city of Fasher by armed men on Thursday.

The death toll from floods in Indonesia has now risen to over 100. Flash floods and landslides were triggered when a river burst its banks on Monday in West Papua. More than 5,000 people have lost their homes.

The trapped Chilean miners could be reached by tomorrow, but may have to wait a further ten days to be rescued. Once the drill has broken through, engineers will have to assess how safe the shaft is before the 33 miners can be pulled to safety.

Toxic lifestyle

Image courtesy of http://www.reachinghearts4kids.org

By Martin Adam

A government estimated 350,000 children have been left abandoned on Kenya’s war ravaged streets.  Conflict between tribes, escalated by recent elections has despoiled any concept of the family unit, leaving the republic’s youth to turn to solvent abuse as a form of chemical counselling.

Bottles containing a slightly runny, honey hued substance are passed from young mothers into the hands of eager youngsters.  Much like the syrup settling at the bottom there is little sweet in this scene.  The mother is addicted to glue and transferring the neural depleting toxin into the possession of a toddler.

Philippa Frankl of Street Kids International informs me that “within our target group worldwide, cases of children abusing psychoactive substances are around the 90 percent mark.  In Kenya these statistics would be likely to be very similar.”

Ethnic grouping is the sole factor in defining a person’s identity in the East African region.  Passion runs so high that there is great division between Kenya’s tribal factions.  Amidst allegations of corrupt presidential elections in 2007, Mwai Kibaki was placed back into office and violent clashes between The Luo and Kikuyu tribes swiftly erupted.  Infants have looked on in terror and what one would imagine bewilderment as vicious strikes of blood tainted machetes strike their parents.

Nyankvir de Mabior of Edinburgh and former resident of Nairobi for 13 years insists that most children choose solvents as a way of “numbing their existence” with many taking to glue “as young as 10 years old”.  Nyankvir adding that with the recent bloodshed following elections “little hope these children held has instantly gone.”

She detailed a common sight from the streets of the nation’s capital to me. “Use of glue is done openly in public.  Groups of around 6 to 8 children will purchase the glue from hawkers then crowd in busy streets and take it”.  Pedlars of the chemicals are typically adults who in turn gain a commission as they poison what is the country’s future.

Kibera stands out as one of Africa’s largest slums second only to Soweto.  Located in the centre of Nairobi it is home to perhaps 1 million.  It is typical of this area for a male to aspire towards dealing drugs with young women falling into prostitution.  Life is of such poor quality that such a grim outlook is a widely accepted goal.  In a bid to survive people are inevitably lured into an inescapable circle of crime leading on to drug abuse, ill health and eventually death.

Children still with family are sent out on to the streets in order to beg for money or food.  Whilst on charity work Nyankvir met 17 year old Kamau.

“His parents had died from drug abuse whilst in their 30’s.  Kamua takes care of four kids.  The need for money is so great that sadly he has to use them for begging.”

For many missing mature guidance the sole purpose of begging is to provide glue money.  Members of the general public have been encouraged to only provide food when possible.

Unfortunately, as Philippa told me, “government assistance is limited and sporadic.  Help given to the problem is mostly down to non-governmental organisations and individual efforts.”

Street children are looked down upon by fellow Kenyans as a lower form of life, demonised by the higher classes. Nyankvir stated that “people try to avoid the street children on sight”.   Some orphans claim to be forced into sacks then harshly kicked and beaten with solid objects. These are not attacks perpetrated by fringe groups but by police officers.  Those who are meant to help, specifically target children of the slums and deliver regular abuse.

A wooden seat in front of a blackboard is preferred by all over lying in a bed of cast away filth, your brain smothered and grinding into shut down. High levels of crime coupled with second class health care result in low levels of school attendance.  Little money which is possessed is increasingly spent on purchasing the glue, therefore thousands with a desire to learn cannot afford the necessary uniform. Without regulation attire the institution will refuse admission to the child.

Aumi Aumi is illicit alcohol made with the industrial chemical methylated spirit.  It is now common for children to produce it by themselves using makeshift equipment.  At the end of the process the dangerously potent drink is shared amongst groups.  Possible side effects of consuming such a powerful concoction can be impotence, blindness and a slow death.  Alarmingly those knocking it back are fully aware of the peril.  Adolescents are embracing slow suicide.

Persistent charity work will reward with success stories.  Hussein, 19, a former periodic street based child and solvent user gained practical skills assisted by Street Kids International’s “Street Business” course.

“Through this he learnt how to run a small business going on to establish his own selling second hand clothes.  He now employs his cousin to run that business while he has started a new venture selling shoes”.

Hussein stands as one of hopefully now many industrious young people thankful after receiving such a deserved and overdue break into mainstream society.

Nyankvir mentioned that “national pride is strong and the youth of Kenya hold a sense of it.  Now it is being threatened”.  Despite such hardships there is a great sense of this amongst the communities of Kenya’s disaffected youngsters.  To the side of drug abuses are the foundations of a solid social network powered by brave individuals.  Food is resourcefully scavenged, cooked under flame and shared amongst friends.  Rivalry between adult counterparts is overlooked. Bonds are formed regardless of tribal allegiance.

As Philippa summarised “it is an extensive and by all accounts growing problem with no apparent end.  “A large scale problem met on a small scale level”.

Perseverance is essential.  With heightened awareness of this growing problem and greater funding to back local projects such as “ExStreet” plus more support to valuable international charities like Street Kids International, life could eventually hold a fresh  awakening and progress for neglected young Kenyans.


Literature and Laughs come to Glasgow

If you think you could use a good laugh or some relaxation after the miserable start to this year, then Glasgow is the place to be for festival fun this March, boasting both comedy and literature events in the coming weeks.

The Bank of Scotland Aye Write book festival launched this weekend and will continue until the 14th, while  Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival will be tickling the nation’s funny-bone from the 12th – 29th. 

Attracting well-known names from each field, the festivals are promising to be bigger and better than previous years.  Now in its third year, the comedy festival has snared top acts such as Jimmy Carr, Rob Brydon and Ross Noble.  As for the literary side of things, the fourth year of Aye Write boasts Alan Bennett, Alexander McCall Smith and James Frey to be among the numerous authors regaling the crowds.

As the comedy festival is working alongside Homecoming Scotland 2009, which aims to highlight Scotland’s culture and to bring the country into a prolific level on the global scale. 

Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer at EventScotland, the national events agency responsible for Homecoming Scotland is proud that the two events are working together:

“Glasgow’s International Comedy Festival has grown phenomenally over the past seven years to become one of the most well attended and highly acclaimed comedy festivals in the UK. This year the event forms an exciting part of our Homecoming programme and as such will be welcoming performers and audiences from around the world with an affinity for Scotland. I have no doubt that the event will be bigger and better than ever.”

As well as showcasing prolific authors from around the world, joining Aye Write, among many others, are Jackie Kay, Janice Galloway and  to fly the flag for Scotland’saye_write_114x114 homegrown literary talent.

The event also advertises school and family-related talks and activities.



Holyrood defenceless against suicide attacks

By Laura Mclean

The Scottish Parliament is not strong enough to withstand a suicide bomb attack, despite having had £90 million spent on bomb-proofing the building, according to a report by the The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure.

A ring of steel and concrete is to be erected surrounding the Scottish Parliament , two years after MI5 warned that not enough measures were being taken to protect Holyrood.

The move comes after the terror attack on Glasgow Airport 2 years ago when a Jeep Cherokee loaded with propane canisters was driven into the glass terminal doors at Glasgow International Airport.

A Parliament insider said today that discussions about increasing security have been in the pipeline for years but up until now no changes have been brought about.

He said: “The existing bollards were not thought to be strong enough and the fear was that a car being driven at speed could come through the glass front and into the building.”


Over £90 million was spent bomb proofing the interior and exterior of the Scottish Parliament. But today it has been announced that a further £1.5 million is to be spent on a package of security improvements including new security gates and bollards will be erected at the entrance to the Holyrood building.

The architectural demands and safety regulations on the building were amongst the most rigorous in the construction industry in the 1990s. Consturcted from a mixture of granite, steel and glass the project was deemed as bomb-proof.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said they are taking measures to install street furniture that will fit with the surrounding area. She said:  “The intention is to produce additional security measures, which are tasteful and merge with the iconic status of the Scottish Parliament building.”

Security bollards surrounding the airport entrance stopped the car from entering the terminal. MI5 say that a similar attack in Edinburgh can be prevented by erecting a further 162 bollards outside of the Scottish Parliament

City councillors have reassured local residents that no additional clutter will be made to the Canongate streets.