International News Briefs
Massive earthquake, tsunami devastate Japan
JAPAN: An 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan last week, triggering a tsunami that killed thousands of people and devastated infrastructure in the country’s north-east, Reuters reported. There are ongoing concerns at two nuclear power plants about complications arising from the quake. Bullet trains and other forms of rapid transit were shut down across the country, stranding millions away from their homes. More than four million homes were without power following the disaster. Both the U.S. and China offered assistance. The quake was Japan’s most powerful since records began 140 years ago. It reportedly created tsunami waves ten metres high.
Dalai Lama eyes retirement
INDIA: The Dalai Lama, political and spiritual leader of Tibet’s exiled government, announced last week his intention to step down from his political position to allow for a democratically elected leader for his country, CNN reported. The Dalai Lama denied any political skepticism in the move and said it would be for the best interest of Tibet. Chinese officials called the announcement a trick and maintained that all proposed actions are illegal. China has occupied Tibet since 1950. The unelected Dalai Lama left Tibet in 1959 after a failed attempt to free the country from Chinese control and now lives in northern India.
African Union fights for Somalian stability
SOMALIA: Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the sacrifices of Burundian and Ugandan peacekeepers in their ongoing struggle to end a decades-long civil war in Somalia. He warned, however, that the situation remains delicate and appealed for increased aid and funding from the international community, Al Jazeera reported. Dozens of African Union soldiers have been killed or wounded as they fight to regain control of Mogadishu, with reports that about 60 per cent of the city is now in the hands of the country’s transitional government. That government’s mandate expires in August and there is no agreement yet to renew it.
ETA leader in custody
FRANCE: The alleged military leader of the violent Basque separatist group ETA was among others captured by French police last week near the Belgian border, Al Jazeera reported. The arrests are the latest in a campaign that French and Spanish authorities believe have crippled the terrorist group. ETA forces have been connected to more than 800 deaths in the past 40 years. In January, officials within the ETA announced a permanent ceasefire, but the Spanish prime minister insisted on pursuing the group’s complete dissolution. A previous ceasefire announcement in 2006 was followed by a bomb attack at Madrid’s airport.
Corruption from above
UNITED STATES: Ten people from a small town on the U.S.-Mexico border, including the mayor and police chief, were arrested last week and charged with firearms offences, the BBC reported. Prosecutors allege that the group bought more than 200 firearms that it intended to smuggle into Mexico for sale to drug cartels. Mexico, which has strict prohibitions on firearms, has long urged the more lenient U.S. to do more to stop the flow of weapons across the border. Mexican officials have captured nearly 100,000 guns since 2006, most of which are traceable to U.S. sources.
Published in Volume 65, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 17, 2011)