Kashmir troop withdrawal planned by India
INDIA: India will withdraw one quarter of its armed forces in the Kashmir region over the next year, the BBC reported. India’s home secretary announced last week in Delhi that the withdrawal is meant to build confidence between the government and separatist groups. Last summer Kashmir saw more than 100 deaths due to violent protests as separatists demanded troop withdrawals and the elimination of emergency measures in the Muslim majority region. India may have between 300,000 and 500,000 soldiers and police in Kashmir, which borders Pakistan. Many critics remain suspicious as India has failed to follow through on previous promises.
Mine explosion victims cannot be recovered
NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand’s police commissioner Howard Broad has ended a search for the bodies of coal miners killed in November when their mine suffered a series of explosions, the CBC reported. The lives of search teams were jeopardized by the same dangerous gases that caused the initial disaster, leading Broad to call off search efforts. Heat and flames also prevented rescue efforts in the days and weeks following the national catastrophe. Broad said any future recovery efforts were unrealistic. New Zealand has a good safety record for its mines with only 181 people killed in over a hundred years.
Chernobyl wildlife debate
UKRAINE: Almost 25 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in northern Ukraine, scientists studying wildlife in the irradiated zone have found many species flourishing despite toxicity, according to CNN. Many plant species that showed radioactivity in the leaves yielded seeds with much lower levels. This leads some to believe that the region, which has been abandoned by humans since the disaster, might one day be used for food crops. While some see the increase in biodiversity in the region with optimism, others point to less positive occurrences, such as mutations and abnormalities that affect one in 10 birds in the area.
Palestine finds South American support
GUYANA: Guyana last week added its voice to a growing number of countries that have acknowledged Palestinian independence, Al Jazeera reported. The move from Guyana came one week after Chile did the same, bringing the total number of South American countries that officially support Palestine’s sovereignty to seven. Other nations on the list include Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador. All except Chile recognize the nation of Palestine to include all territory within the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestine has increased international efforts to gain recognition as direct negotiations continue to yield few results.
New charges for Italian PM
ITALY: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is under investigation for allegedly soliciting sex from an underage prostitute, Reuters reported. Prosecutors filed charges last week following months of investigation. They allege that Berlusconi paid a 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub dancer for sex at parties he hosted at his villa. The prime minister and his lawyers denied the charges, calling them groundless and noting that all potential witnesses denied that any crime took place. Berlusconi also currently faces charges of tax fraud and corruption after an Italian court overruled legislation that had been providing the PM immunity from prosecution.