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Published:October 31st, 2007 15:27 EST
Breaking News Today October 31, 2007

Breaking News Today October 31, 2007

By Krzys Wasilewski

EUROPE

MADRID, Spain. It's been a long three years for the relatives of those 191 people who were killed in the 2004 Madrid terror bombings. Today Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez ended this gloomy period when he delivered a verdict sentencing the three main suspects to over 30,000 years in prison since the European Union bans the death penalty. Additionally, the Spanish law restricts the time one can spend in prison to no more than 40 years. The rest of the accomplices received sentences ranging from 10 to 18 years. Seven, including an Egyptian held in an Italian prison, has been acquitted due to the lack of evidence. All of the suspects are of North African origin, with only one being a Spanish national.

The Madrid bombings were perpetrated days before a parliamentary election in Spain. Although the then ruling conservative coalition had been a certain winner in most opinion polls, the bombings reversed the trend and the election was won by socialists. The new government withdrew over 1,000 Spanish troops from Iraq until the end of April 2004.

MOSCOW, Russia. Most of the residents of the southwestern Russian city of Togliatti were still sleeping when a loud explosion destroyed the morning harmony. In what seems more like a car bomb rather than a suicide attack, eight people were killed and 48 injured after a bus they were in was torn to pieces a few minutes past 7 am, local time. Most of the passengers were students going to college. According to witnesses, the explosion occurred seconds after a large group of students left the bus at one particular stop. Although the first reports spoke of a terrorist attack – nothing unusual in a country that is in a state of war with Muslim minorities – later the police admitted that the bomb could have been detonated by one of the region's many gangs.

Russia has been on high alert and will remain so for the December parliamentary elections and the March 2008 presidential election. Terrorist attacks have become part of the reality for most of the country's citizens since Russia began to pacify the Islamic republic of Chechnya.

TURIN, Italy. Bishops and priests of the Turin archdiocese have launched a crusade against Halloween in this predominantly Catholic region and country. The clergy accused American pop culture – especially movies and songs – of popularizing US-like night parties and ousting the traditional way of celebrating All Saints' Day. Instead, the Catholic Church called on its faithful to attend “the night of saints and mysteries,” which will culminate with a midnight mass.

AMERICAS

NEW YORK, USA. A day after Cuba's victory in the United Nations General Assembly – 187 countries voted for a resolution calling on the U.S. to end the embargo on Cuba – the island's foreign minister warned that any attempt to change the regime will be responded to with force. In an interview with the Associated Press, Felipe Perez Rogue said, “[the Cuban government] respects the United States, but we demand respect for ourselves, and we would defend our country from an attempt to have foreign aggression.” The already tense relations between the United States and Cuba were additionally strained after George W. Bush's speech on democracy in Cuba, which the American president made last week.

The United States has had no diplomatic relations with Cuba since Fidel Castro took power in 1959. With the ailing dictator and internal fights concerning the Cuban leadership, Washington sees a chance for a democratic change in the neighboring island.

AFRICA

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa. South African media reports that the Johannesburg police unit is investigating alleged abuses at a school founded by American TV star Oprah Winfrey. According to the Rapport newspaper, the school's pupils were to have been beaten and refused food at the cafeteria. Police Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini acknowledged that “we [the police] established that there were criminal elements in the report they gave us and we are investigating these,” cites the Associated Press.

The story of Oprah Winfrey's $40 million school is another example of when reality trumps good intentions. The American celebrity had selected the first 192 pupils herself; various U.S. black artists – Mary J. Blige and Spike Lee among others, had attended the official opening ceremony. But problems began as soon as the stars had come back to the United States. Parents were complaining that their kids were refused food and whenever they wanted to visit the school, they had to go through a metal-detector.

DARFUR, Sudan. An international force to protect the battled people of Darfur may be operational as of the first months of 2008, said the head of the mission, Rodolphe Adada. Three months ago, the United Nations had approved the creation of a 28,000-strong multinational force (UNAMID), consisting of African and Asian troops, but until very recently, the idea had been blocked by the Sudanese government. Now, with the green light from both parties, UNAMID “can begin the real work,” said Adada. So far, only a new headquarters has been built in the southern city of Al-Fasher, but Adada remained optimistic about the deployment of the first units. “We may be operational in the beginning of the next year,” said UNAMID's chief, reports the Agence France Presse.

ASIA

YANGON, Myanmar. Over one hundred Buddhist monks walked through the streets of the northern city of Pakokku, in a silent protest against the ruling military junta. According to news agencies, this time the police watched the protesters at a safe distance, allowing the monks to finish their march peacefully. The demonstration was organized almost exactly one month after another protest had been brutally suppressed by the police. In a follow-up to the September 28 assembly, over 10 people were killed and dozens thrown into jail; independent newspapers were closed. Despite the international pressure, the Myanmar government has refused to release the detainees, arguing it has a right to protect the integrity of the country. Nevertheless, seven dissidents were freed last week as a move of good will from the country's authorities.

BEJING, China. It seems that the Bush Administration may finally achieve a major success in its foreign policy. Although the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from optimistic, American diplomats have managed to talk North Korea into giving up its nuclear ambitions in exchange for economic and energy aid. US special envoy to North Korea Christopher Hill is reported to say, “There are a couple of issues that have to be worked through but I think we have an agreement on what we're doing generally.”

If everything goes according to Hill's plan, North Korea will become the first country, which voluntarily resigned from its nuclear program. It is a significant achievement for the Bush Administration since Pyongyang's nuclear installations were about to reach their working ability. If the unpredictable communist regime managed to gain the access to nuclear warheads, it could drastically ruin the fragile balance of power in that part of the world. Earlier this month, North Korea was written off as Washington's axis of evil.

 

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