News from around the World

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on May 10, 2011

SAMOA – Samoa to shift back west of international dateline

APIA - The South Pacific island nation of Samoa announced plans Monday to jump forward in time by one day by switching to the west side of the international dateline – 119 years after it moved the other way in a bid to boost its trade and economy.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi cited the same reasons for shifting back, saying moving forward a day will make doing business with key partners Australia and New Zealand “far, far easier and more convenient.”

The move will see the independent Polynesian nation share the same date and a similar time as its Pacific neighbors, including Australia and New Zealand.

Samoa and neighboring American Samoa lied west of the international dateline until 1892, when a U.S. business trader convinced both to switch to the east, moving back to the previous day’s date. Samoa has long marketed itself as the last place on earth to see the sun each day.

“A local trader lobbied successfully for the change as it was convenient for trading ships from Europe and the United States that were servicing Samoa at the time,” Tuilaepa said in a statement. “But our trading partners have dramatically changed since, and today we do a lot more business with New Zealand and Australia, China and Pacific Rim countries such as Singapore.”

Tuilaepa said Samoa is currently losing out on two working days a week doing business with New Zealand and Australia.

“While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand, and when we’re at church Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane,” he said.

The shift will put the dateline between Samoa and American Samoa, a U.S. territory, but Tuilaepa said that would create “exciting tourism opportunities.”

ISRAEL – Israel celebrates its 63rd Independence Day

JERUSALEM - Israel’s somber memorial day [beginning at sundown May 8th and ending at sundown May 9th] for fallen soldiers gave way to Independence Day celebrations [beginning at sundown May 9th and ending at sundown May 10th] at nightfall on Monday…

At Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Israel’s national cemetery, Israelis kindled 12 huge torches to signify the start of the holiday marking Israel’s 63rd birthday. Soldiers marched in formation, and fireworks lit up skies across the nation on a mild spring evening. …..

Cities and towns set up outdoor stages for singers and dance troupes to provide entertainment late into the night.

In contrast to Memorial Day, when Israelis visit to cemeteries and share tales of survivors and sad recollections of wartime losses, Independence Day is a joyful celebration when people flock to picnics, parties and hikes in natural reserves….

Military bases were opening for visits, and the Israeli air force planned flybys over much of the country as part of the festivities.

…..

The grouping of mournful Memorial Day with Independence Day celebrations is intentional, to show the link between the costly wars Israel has fought and the establishment and survival of the Jewish state.

The state was founded on May 14, 1948, when the British mandate over Palestine ended. (see “Background” below)

Israel celebrates its Independence Day according to the Hebrew calendar. Palestinians, in contrast, mark the occasion with a day of mourning, calling the creation of Israel “al-Naqba,” Arabic for catastrophe…

Medvedev and PutingRUSSIA - Russia marks Victory Day with vast parade

MOSCOW – Tens of thousands of…soldiers marched…across Red Square Monday in Russia’s annual Victory Day display of military might, while President Dmitry Medvedev said the country is committed to peace and global stability.

The parade, marking the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II, is the centerpiece of Russia’s most solemn secular holiday, both commemorating the Soviet Union’s enormous sacrifices in the war and asserting the potency of its modern military.

The 20,000 troops who strode in precision formation through the vast square outside the Kremlin were followed by more than 100 pieces of mobile military hardware, from armored personnel carriers to…Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile launchers. It concluded with a squadron of helicopters carrying flags over the square but, unusually for recent years, did not include warplanes.

Although Russian armed forces suffered from severe funding shortages and morale problems in the early years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the parade put forth the image of a spit-and-polish and vigorous military, with an emphasis on discipline and precision. The parade announcer even praised the “maximal synchronization” with which the cars carrying Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and Moscow Military District commander Col.-Gen. Valery Gerasimov approached each other in the center of the square.

Medvedev told the crowd, which included many war veterans festooned with medals and ribbons, that restoring the military would continue. …..

“Today Russia firmly upholds the principles of peaceful cooperation, consistently advocates for a security system and contributes to the overall effort to maintain global stability in the world,” he said in the speech from a tribune set up in front of the Lenin Mausoleum.

The mausoleum, the focal point of the square, was hidden behind an elaborate scrim painted to mark the holiday, reflecting the symbolic delicacy of commemorating a victory achieved by the Soviet regime that is now largely discredited. Some of the marching military units carried period flags bearing the Communist hammer-and-sickle emblem.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at: the San Diego Union-Tribune’s signonsandiego.com on May 8th and 9th.)


Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) location/the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

2. For Samoa:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) For what reason has the Samoan government decided to make this change?

3. For Israel:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why does Israel celebrate Independence Day immediately after Memorial Day?

4. For Russia:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) The surrender of Nazi Germany is celebrated as Victory Day on May 9th in Russia. What do we call the day the Nazis surrendered, commemorated by Western powers including the U.S. on May 8th?


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a weekly email with answers.

Background

ISRAEL: Memorial Day/Independence Day:

  • Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) is the day on which Israel honors its fallen servicemen and women.
  • National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel’s top leadership and military personnel.
  • The day opens with a siren the preceding evening at 8:00 pm, given that in the Hebrew calendar system, the day begins at sunset.
  • The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything (including driving, which stops highways) and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect.
  • Many religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers at this time.
  • The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall, and the flag of Israel is lowered to half staff.
  • A two-minute siren is heard at 11:00 the following morning, which marks the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried.
  • The day officially draws to a close between 7-8 p.m. in the official ceremony of Israel Independence Day on Mount Herzl, when the flag of Israel is returned to full staff.
  • Scheduling Yom Hazikaron right before Yom Ha-Atzma’ut is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and of what was achieved with the soldiers’ sacrifice.
  • This transition shows the importance of this day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service. (from wikipedia)

HISTORY OF ISRAEL: (from the U.S. State Department website at state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3581.htm#profile)

  • The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was preceded by more than 50 years of efforts to establish a sovereign state as a homeland for Jews.
  • These efforts were initiated by Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, and were given added impetus by the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which asserted the British Government’s support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  • In the years following World War I, Palestine became a British Mandate and Jewish immigration steadily increased, as did violence between Palestine’s Jewish and Arab communities.
  • Mounting British efforts to restrict this immigration were countered by international support for Jewish national aspirations following the near-extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis during World War II.
  • This support led to the 1947 UN partition plan, which would have divided Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem under UN administration.
  • On May 14, 1948, soon after the British quit Palestine, the State of Israel was proclaimed and was immediately invaded by armies from neighboring Arab states, which rejected the UN partition plan.
  • This conflict, Israel’s War of Independence, was concluded by armistice agreements between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in 1949 and resulted in a 50% increase in Israeli territory.

Resources

SAMOA: Read about the international dateline at worldatlas.com.

RUSSIA: Watch a news video of Russia’s 2011 Victory Day parade below: