International News Briefs

Belgium sets dubious record

BELGIUM: Rallies and protests were staged across Belgium last week as part of a “chips revolution,” drawing attention to the country’s lack of a government for a record 249 days. The stalemate between groups from Belgium’s Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south has prevented a government from forming. The previous record-holding nation was Iraq. According to BBC reports, Belgian students enjoyed free french fries, their national dish, and wore only underwear to urge the country’s leaders to find a compromise. While an interim government has managed the routine operation of the country, organizers of the rally emphasized the importance of progress towards an elected government.

Whaling suspended

JAPAN: Japanese officials announced last week the temporary suspension of the annual whale hunt following dangerous and repeated disruptions by conservationist Sea Shepherd ships, the CBC reported. The hunt, which was expected to gather nearly a thousand whales this year, is a source for scientific study in Japan. While this exempts the country from the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling, critics have noted that unused whale meat is sold for public consumption. While encounters between the whalers and the Sea Shepherds have not resulted in any injuries to Japanese crew, a Sea Shepherd vessel sank last year after a collision.

Assassin pleads guilty

PAKISTAN: The policeman who shot and killed Punjab governor Salman Taseer admitted to the killing in criminal court, but denied that his actions were illegal, Al Jazeera reported last week. The defendant, Mumtaz Qadri, cited Islamic laws that required him to kill Mr. Tameer, who criticized Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws. The court accepted Qadri’s statement as a guilty plea. Meanwhile, Qadri received Valentine’s Day cards and flowers from supporters who also demanded his immediate release. In addition to his three defence attorneys, more than 500 lawyers offered their free services to Qadri. The policeman was serving as Taseer’s bodyguard when he allegedly shot him 26 times on Jan. 4.

John Paul II to be exhumed

VATICAN CITY: Supporters will be able to see the closed coffin of John Paul II when the former pope is beatified on May 1, Reuters reported. The remains will be exhumed from their current resting place in the crypts under St. Peter’s Basilica. The ceremony, which will be preceded by prayer vigils and followed by a public mass in St. Peter’s Square, moves John Paul II one step closer to sainthood. In addition to the one confirmed miracle required for beatification, the deceased individual must complete one more to qualify for sainthood. The three-day event is expected to draw crowds similar to those at John Paul II’s 2005 funeral.

Big oil held to account

ECUADOR: An Ecuadorian judge ended more than 19 years of court battles when he ruled against oil company Chevron, awarding more than $8 billion to residents of the Amazonian country. CNN reported that the group of 30,000 Ecuadorians initially accused oil company Texaco, which was recently bought by Chevron, of huge damage to rainforest ecosystems and local communities by spilled waste and careless mining practices. Both sides intend to appeal the verdict. Chevron said the ruling was based on fraudulent information while representatives for the residents said the amount was too little to cover the costs of repair.

Published in Volume 65, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 24, 2011)

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