November 30th, 2007 13:28 EST
Happened On The Last Day of November
KHARTOUM, Sudan- Thousands of angry protesters, some of them armed, thronged the streets of the Sudanese capital today, demanding that a British high school teacher, Gillian Gibbons, who was arrested on Sunday after allowing one of her pupils to call his teddy bear “Muhammad,” be executed. Although she has already served six out of 15 days which the court imposed on her, for the majority of Sudanese, such a lenient punishment is not enough. As an Associated Press correspondent in Sudan reports, the demonstrators screamed, “No tolerance: Execution,” and “Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”
In this predominantly Muslim country, the name Muhammad-- usually associated with the prophet Muhammad-- is sacred and any other mention of it causes controversy. Gibbons was taken into custody after one of her colleagues reported to the police that some of her pupils were calling a teddy bear by the holy name. The British admitted that she had allowed them to do so. Despite the pleas of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the leader of the Anglican Church, the Sudanese court said it would not rescind its decision.
DARFUR, Sudan- The United Nations warns that the Sudanese authorities are failing in providing security to the refugees from the war-shattered province of Darfur. U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes, who visited some of the refugee camps today, said that Khartoum was not doing enough to protect the hundreds of thousands of people who had to flee their homes when Arab militias-- often supported by the governmental forces-- unleashed a violent attack on villages inhabited by black communities by burning homes, committing mass murders and raping women and children. Quoted by the Associated Press, Holmes said today, “I think the security situation is probably worse now than it was eight months ago. There's been more fighting, more instability and more displacement of people.”
BRASILIA, Brazil- Although some of Brazil's biggest cities, such as the capital Brasilia or main tourist attraction Rio de Janeiro, are expanding and gaining a better standard of living, some of the country's 175 million citizens still live in 18th century conditions. Shantytowns, or favelas, are home to millions of impoverished Brazilians whose fate ceased to be a governmental problem a long time ago. This is to change, with President Lula da Silva visit today to one of Rio de Janeiro's slums. Greeted by hundreds of the residents, da Silva promised to make the improvement of their living standards his top priority. The Associated Press quotes him as saying, “We can't say that we will build mansions. We don't have money for that. But we want to transform where you live into a decent and dignified place that you can be proud to live in.”
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan- President Musharraf regained control over Pakistan's political life, announcing Thursday that the state of emergency would be lifted on December 16, with the opposition parties being unable to unite before the January parliamentary election. The split results from the call to boycott the election issued by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the pledge to run for parliamentary seats announced today by another former premier, Benazir Bhutto. She is quoted by Associated Press as saying Friday, “We are taking part in elections under protest, we are not giving them any legitimacy. But if we do not participate we leave the field for others.” Last week, when both politicians were under pressure with hundreds of their supporters remaining in jails and the threat that President Musharraf would not lift the emergency rule, it seemed that Sharif and Bhutto would lead the opposition despite the differences deriving from the past. However, after today's announcement, it seems that Musharraf holds every chance to win the upcoming election since neither of the divided opposition parties may be able to rule independently.
The emergency rule was imposed in October to “save Pakistan and bring it back on the right track.” President Musharraf, who dissolved the Supreme Court and ordered the arrest of hundreds of opposition activists, was severely criticized by the international community. He had to resign from the post of the army chief before he could begin the second presidential term, promising to organize a free and independent parliamentary election according to the original schedule.
MOSCOW, Russia- Two days before parliamentary elections, opposition parties denounce the political system in Russia as everything but democratic. One of the most recognizable faces of the anti-Putin movement, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, said today that the Putin Administration turned the country into a one-party dictatorship. The Associated Press quotes him as saying, “Russia today does not correspond to even the most primitive idea of a democratic state,” and resembles “an authoritarian state with a very serious tendency toward single-party dictatorship.”
It is expected that Vladimir Putin's United Russia party will win the majority of the votes. Yesterday the president called his fellow citizens to support the party that had brought back stability and a sense of respect. He also warned against voting for those who would “plunge the country into the chaos as in the early 1990s” when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
VATICAN CITY, Italy- In his second encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI criticizes the contemporary civilization for its atheism. Titled in Latin “Spe Salvi,” or “Saved by Hope,” the document demonstrates how the human desire to build the perfect world led to murderous regimes, such as Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. The pope wrote that, although “a world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God,” a political and social system based on atheism, regardless of its original principles, turns against its Creator. “It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice.”
Pope Benedict XVI also warned Christians that concentrating on their personal salvation is against Jesus' teachings. “Modern Christianity,” writes the Holy Father, “has, to a large extent, restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation and limited the horizon of its hope and has failed to recognize sufficiently the greatness of its task.”
Pope Benedict XVI is perceived by the predominantly secular Europe as a highly conservative figure. He has constantly expressed his concern with European governments for their secular policies that purge all marks of Christianity from offices and schools.
ANKARA, Turkey- Fifty-seven people were killed in a plane accident in southern Turkey today. Flying from Istanbul to Isparta, the plane disappeared from radars shortly after its pilot received permission for landing. It took more than five hours for rescue teams to localize the craft since it had crashed in a mountainous region. So far, it remains unknown what caused the tragedy.