International News Briefs

Witches dodge a bullet

ROMANIA: In an attempt to increase government income, two members of Romania’s ruling Democratic Liberal Party put forth a draft law recently that would have seen witches and fortunetellers forced to produce taxable transaction records. The law would have also held those in magical occupations accountable for incorrect predictions. According to the CBC, Alin Popoviciu and Cristi Dugulescu accused their fellow politicians of fearing magical repercussions when their draft law failed to pass the Romanian senate last Tuesday. The eastern European nation has been suffering recently from a rapidly shrinking economy and last year was forced to accept a $20 billion loan.

Resurrecting the caste system 60 years later

INDIA: For the first time since gaining its independence from the British Empire, India’s government will formally count its citizens according to their castes, CNN reported last week. The survey, which will take place next year separately from India’s ongoing general census, is primarily an attempt to discover how many Indians are members of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), a general grouping for several of the lowest castes. While some say the results will help the government provide help to the disadvantaged, opponents to the survey fear the re-emphasis of castes – which date back thousands of years – will damage India’s national unity.

Happy birthday, DPRK!

NORTH KOREA: Ceremonies honouring Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first leader, took place last week in Pyongyang to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of that nation’s independence, the New York Times reports. The milestone comes amid many speculations about the political future of North Korea. A high-profile meeting of delegates from the North’s ruling Worker’s Party failed to begin on schedule last week, prompting analysts across the border in South Korea to wonder if current supreme leader Kim Jong-il – son of Kim Il-sung – was experiencing health difficulties. Many expect Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, to begin taking on increased responsibility in preparation to succeed his father.

Promising improvement in South Afric

SOUTH AFRICA: The BBC reports that murder rates fell by almost nine per cent in South Africa last year, according to the latest statistics. This means that the number of murders in that country was less than 17,000 for the first time since statistics were first collected in 1994. Government officials and security analysts say the drastic drop in murders was due to greater police visibility and an increased integration between the police and community forums. The data, which is hopeful in a nation widely considered to be one of the most violent in the world, includes one year ending in March, thereby excludes figures from the FIFA World Cup.

Chilean protesters receive support

CHILE: Four members of Chile’s left-wing opposition joined a group of indigenous Mapuche prisoners last week in a hunger strike to protest what they see as an abuse of unfair anti-terrorism laws, the BBC reports. The 34 Mapuche prisoners are being charged with various terrorist offences following disputes over their ancestral land. The terrorism charges allow the government to press harsher sentences and to try the accused in military courts. Prior to the congressmen’s show of solidarity, which the government has called irresponsible, the prisoners had been refusing food for two months. Chile’s government will not negotiate with the strikers, and instead have asked the Roman Catholic Church to mediate.

Published in Volume 65, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 16, 2010)

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