International News Briefs

Bear hunt unappreciated

SINGAPORE: A marketing campaign in Singapore by the electronics company Philips involving a person in a bear costume resulted in a criminal investigation, the BBC reported last Friday. The campaign involved a video showing a bear running loose in a residential area and rummaging through garbage. Mistaking the costume for a real bear, officials were dispatched to tranquilize the animal. The hunt involved more than 15 people. Philips issued a statement apologizing for the video, but still face charges of public nuisance with a potential fine of up to $1,000.

Nuclear energy proliferation

RUSSIA: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reached a deal last week that will see Russia build Venezuela’s first nuclear power plant, Reuters reported. The deal, which also involves the sale of $1.6 billion of Venezuelan oil assets to Russia, is expected to strengthen ties between the two nations. Having recently finished a nuclear energy plant in Iran, Medvedev expects this new deal to be unpopular with the U.S., though both he and Chavez emphasized that their motives were “clean and open.”  Chavez also said nothing would prevent the nuclear plant from being built.

Taliban attend peace talks in safety

AFGANISTAN: NATO commanders confirmed last week that they arranged for Taliban spokespeople to attend peace negotiations in Kabul, the CBC reported. Officials within the Afghan government previously acknowledged having informal communication with the Taliban, but the Taliban denied having any contact with the Afghan government. They have insisted that all foreign troops be removed from Afghanistan before any negotiations would begin. These new talks are Afghan-led and monitored by the U.S., but officials note that the meetings are not official negotiations. NATO forces have been more aggressive lately against Taliban forces in eastern and southern Afghanistan where the militants are based.

Virtual courts to speed justice

KENYA: A new system of virtual courts launched last week in Kenya, Reuters reports. The new system, which uses live video conferencing to allow litigants and advocates to see judges without the necessity of travel or a physical courtroom, is an attempt to reduce Kenya’s large backlog of court cases. The virtual meetings will save many suspects from years of waiting before their cases are heard. The new system will also involve electronic scans to be made of all evidence documents to eliminate corruption and theft. The project follows a new Kenyan constitution that was finished in August.

World’s longest tunnel finished

SWITZERLAND: The world’s longest train tunnel was finished last week in the Swiss Alps, CNN reported. Crews connected the two halves of the 57 kilometre Gotthard Base Tunnel on Friday after 14 years of construction. The project cost more than $10 billion and involved 2,500 workers. By the time it is operational – at the end of 2017 – the new route will cut travel time between Milan and Zurich by one hour. The Gotthard Tunnel is flatter than previous routes and will be more economical for heavy freight train traffic, which is expected to increase by 75 per cent this year.

Published in Volume 65, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 21, 2010)

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