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Former Chilean leader, Augusto Pinochet, is declared medically unfit to stand trial on charges of ordering tortures during his presidency. The charges stem from a political crackdown on Communist supporters after Pinochet and the Chilean military took power in 1973, backed by the U.S. The 84 year-old retired general has been in London under “house arrest” (confined to his apartment or hospital bed) for 16 months.
The Russian army attempts to finish off Chechen rebels who have been fighting for the independence of the small province. The strategy of bombing Chechnya and its towns until the armed rebels surrender is similar to NATO’s bombardment of Kosovo last year. The international community, which does not recognize Chechnya’s claim to independence from Russia, has done little to pressure Russia to ease up its attacks.
Violence is heating up in the disputed state of Kashmir with increased clashes between Muslim separatist guerrillas and Indian forces. Presently, India and Pakistan each lay claim to half of the mountainous territory, while Kashmir residents themselves would prefer their own independence. Indian officials claim the new attackers to be either from Pakistan or other Muslim nations but are confident the 700,000 Indian troops in Kashmir will keep control.
Syria and Israel have started on the long road towards a peace agreement. The two Middle Eastern neighbours have technically been enemies for the last 50 years, although there has been no major direct conflict since 1974. Syria is expected to take a tough stance in negotiations, so a final agreement could take years. Israel, meanwhile, is still struggling with the details of their agreement Palestinians land and self-government
The world’s first cloned monkey is born in Oregon with a technique that scientists hope will be used to produce genetically identical lab animals. Using a process called “artificial twinning” a new embryo is split into four equal parts and then grown separately. A single successful monkey named “Tetra” was born. This process is commonly used with animals such as cattle and has actually been used to “clone” humans as early as 1993, although for ethical reasons the human embryos were later destroyed.
Religious tensions between Muslims and Christians have flared up recently in parts of Indonesia with thousands of deaths and injuries. Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, has several territories with significant, even majority, Christian populations. The economic and political upheavals of the last couple of years have shaken up the social fabric of the country and religious and ethnic based riots and deadly clashes have become all too common.
Chinese authorities continue to crack down on followers of the banned Falun Gong religious group. Hundreds of supporters and leaders are in jails. Falun Gong, with over two million Chinese members is a combination of various Oriental faiths combined with meditation and breathing exercises to achieve inner strength. Falon Gong is not one of the five tolerated religions in China and the Communist government believes it undermines their authority.
As agreed upon in a 1977 treaty, the United States has given control of the Panama Canal, and the land it, back to the nation Panama as of Dec. 31, 1999. For the last 85 years the U.S. has controlled the American-built canal, the only shortcut between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Panamanians were out in the streets celebrating the Canal’s return. Meanwhile back in America, some conservative politicians are demanding it be returned to American control.
Some progress is being made in Africa in the fight against AIDS thanks to education and awareness. However, the disease is still devastating the populations of many countries. Every day 6,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa are dying of AIDS. That’s 2.2 million a year. The disease has orphaned over 10 million children so far. The most affected groups are young people, especially girls, aged 15-30 years old, with infection rates nearing 25% in some countries. The massive cost of health care, orphaned children and depletion of the workforce are having serious consequences for African society.