International News Briefs

“Islamic Facebook” set to launch

EGYPT: The Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Egyptian opposition group, is preparing to officially launch a social networking site called Ikhwanbook, according to the BBC. Similar to Facebook in its appearance, the site is intended to increase understanding of moderate Islamic values while also providing a forum that better respects these values. Differences from Facebook include greater restrictions on photographs, avoidance of highly personal issues and a different stance towards homosexuality. While the site is currently operating with a trial version, The Brotherhood expects an increase in membership with the launch of the full version at a later date.

Floods add to hunger in Niger

NIGER: The UN reported last week that more than 110, 000 people have been affected by what many are calling the worst flooding in Niger in 40 years. The disaster has destroyed homes and crops in a nation already suffering from drought-related food shortages. The Niger River levels reached an 80-year high, putting additional pressure on UN aid services which are currently only able to provide food for about 40 per cent of those who need it. The crops that were not destroyed by the flood seem to be performing well, but harvest is still months away.

Dead pensioners continue to collect

GREECE: The Greek Government is moving to implement a more efficient pension system after it was recently discovered that over 300 deceased pensioners were still receiving payments. The discovery, as reported by the BBC, highlights the state of Greece’s benefits system as the country tries to cut spending in light of recent economic turmoil. The new system will feature a national register of pensioners as well as a centralized payment system. The investigation into the pension system has thus far only examined pensioners over 100 years old and more incorrect payments are expected as the search turns to a younger age bracket.

Death penalty review in China

CHINA: The Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) is considering a draft amendment to the country’s criminal code that would see the death penalty lifted for certain criminal convictions.  According to, the 13 crimes in question are all economic and non-violent and if the draft is approved it would bring the list of crimes punishable by death down to 55. Specific crimes under consideration include credit fraud, forgery for the purpose of tax evasion and smuggling gold or cultural relics from the country. The draft follows changes in May that disallowed the use of evidence gained by torture in criminal prosecutions.

Important wheat breakthrough

UNITED KINGDOM: A team of scientists in Britain has cracked the genetic code for wheat, a discovery with huge potential implications for world food supplies, according to news outlet The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has published the results of their work, which was able to reveal 95 per cent of the crop’s genetic code. The news comes at a time of worldwide wheat shortages due to droughts in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. The information gained from this new development in wheat research could be used to develop new varieties of the crop that would resist disease and provide higher yields.

Published in Volume 65, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 2, 2010)

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