International News Briefs

Syrian death toll reaches 7,500

SYRIA: President Bashar al-Assad could be classified as a war criminal, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton said following a UN announcement that the death toll from the country’s revolt has climbed to 7,500 civilians. The UN Security Council is drafting a new Syrian resolution and hoping for the support of China and Russia who had previously vetoed other drafts, reports the Mail and Guardian. The draft places blame on Assad and calls for the president to step down. Journalistic presence in the country has been limited and several members of the foreign press have been confirmed killed or injured in the violence.

North Korea’s small step towards denuclearization

NORTH KOREA: North Korea has agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program and halt long-range missile testing to allow international inspectors into the country, reports the Mail and Guardian. The agreement with the U.S. also outlines that North Korea will receive 240,000 metric tons of food aid to help relieve famine in the country. The White House says the humanitarian aid and nuclear negotiations are not linked. While the move is seen as a small but encouraging step towards easing regional tensions, some remain skeptical as previous agreements between the U.S. and North Korea have fallen apart.

Iranian nuclear bunker no match for MOP

IRAN: The U.S. believes it has the weaponry needed to seriously damage an Iranian bunker used for enriching uranium. According to The Washington Post, the bunker, known as Fordow, resides in northwestern Iran and is built 300 feet into a mountainside with reinforced walls and blast-proof doors. While the U.S. has no immediate intention of attacking Fordow, the Pentagon’s newest weapon, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, is a 30,000-pound behemoth that can penetrate 200 feet of dirt and rock before exploding. The U.S. hopes this knowledge will quell Israeli forces intent on attacking Iran’s nuclear program before the country moves more assets into bunkers.

Obama’s contraception policy safe - for now

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Senate has rejected a Republican amendment to President Obama’s policy requiring health insurance providers to cover women’s contraceptive devices. According to the Globe and Mail, the senate voted 51-48 on the amendment proposed by Rep. Roy Blunt, which would allow health plans and employers to opt out of the contraceptive policy for moral or religious reasons. Obama’s policy is a preventative measure to avoid unwanted pregnancies, health-related problems and abortions. According to a poll, two-thirds of Americans support the policy. The debate over women’s healthcare and conservative public values is a sensitive topic leading into the congressional and presidential elections in November.

Google’s new privacy rules a breach of European law: EU

BRITAIN: The European Union’s justice commissioner asserts that Google’s new privacy policy is in breach of European law regarding transparency rules. The policy changes, which came into effect March 1, enable private data collected on one Google platform can be shared with its other platforms such as YouTube, Gmail and Blogger, reports the BBC. While these changes allow for more tailored searches and directed advertising, the only way to opt out of the policy is to stop using Google services. There is also speculation from the EU and France’s CNIL about the lawfulness and fairness of making personal information available across such wide platforms.

Published in Volume 66, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 7, 2012)

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