SPAIN – Spain enacts tough anti-smoking law

MADRID | Tapas bars – the noisy and bustling Spanish success story that combined delicious morsels with good wine and often a cloud of cigarette smoke – are now smoke-free. So are restaurants, discos, casinos, airports and even some outdoor spaces.

Spain on Sunday introduced an anti-smoking law that is likely to turn the EU’s [European Union’s] fourth-largest tobacco producer from a cigarette-friendly land abounding with smoky bars and restaurants, into one of Europe’s most stringently smokeless.

The law prohibits lighting up in enclosed public places, although hotels are allowed to reserve 30 percent of their rooms for smokers. In a particularly tough measure, outside smoking is banned in open-air children’s playgrounds – even those inside parks – and at access points to schools and hospitals.

Parliament approved an anti-smoking law in 2006 that prohibited smoking in the workplace but allowed bar and restaurant owners with premises under 1,100 square feet to decide whether to allow smoking or not – and almost all permitted it.

Critics called the law a failure. Health Minister Leire Pajin said around 50,000 people died each year in Spain as a result of smoking-related illnesses.

GUINEA – Guinea swears in leader after first free vote

CONAKRY | The man considered to be Guinea’s first democratically elected leader was sworn into office Tuesday, [December 21st].

Alpha Conde, a Sorbonne university professor who has spent most of his adult life in France, was inaugurated as the president. He promised to restore authority to Guinea following the tumultuous election.

Conde, 72, was declared the winner of last month’s runoff vote, which was Guinea’s first democratic election although it was tainted by ethnic tensions.

The former French colony has known only autocratic rule since its independence in 1958, and it weathered the especially brutal 11-month rule of a military regime starting in December 2008.

The coup leader was later wounded and left the country, and the No. 2 leader agreed to hand over power to civilians through elections.

MEXICO – Mexico to reform migration office

MEXICO CITY | Mexico plans a shake-up of its corruption-ridden immigration institute, officials said Sunday, after a year that saw some of the worst atrocities against illegal migrants trekking through the country – including the mass slaughter of 72 Central and South Americans trying to reach the United States.

The dismissals this week will include several top directors of the National Institute for Migration, according to two government officials.

The shake-up comes less than two weeks after El Salvador reported the kidnapping of 50 migrants from a train in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

On Aug. 24, the bodies of 72 migrants were found at a ranch 100 miles south of the U.S. border crossing they were trying to reach.

Authorities said the migrants were killed by the Zetas drug gang after refusing to work as traffickers.

CHINA – China sets quota for car licenses

BEIJING | Residents in Beijing, the city ranked as having the world’s worst traffic, rushed to apply for new vehicle licenses under a quota system started Jan. 1 as China’s government seeks to ease the congestion.

A total of 53,549 applications were made on the first day of the year, more than double the number of license plates to be available each month, the Beijing News reported Sunday.

The government said on Dec. 23 that it would set a monthly quota of 20,000 new vehicle licenses in the Chinese capital. China surpassed the United States last year to become the world’s biggest car market. Beijing tied with Mexico City for having the world’s worst traffic.

EGYPT – Christians in Egypt clash with police, Muslims after suicide bomb attack on church

ALEXANDRIA | Egypt Christians clashed with Egyptian police in the northern city of Alexandria on Saturday, furious over an apparent suicide bombing against worshippers leaving a New Year’s Mass at a church that killed at least 21 people. It was the worst violence against the country’s Christian minority in a decade.

The Interior Ministry blamed “foreign elements,” and the Alexandria governor accused al-Qaida, pointing to the terror network’s branch in Iraq, which has carried out a string of attacks on Christians there and has threatened Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christian community as well.

Egypt’s government has long insisted that the terror network does not have a significant presence in the country, and it has never been conclusively linked to any attacks here. If al-Qaida was involved, it raises the prospect of a serious new security threat within Egypt.

President Barack Obama condemned “this barbaric and heinous act” and said those behind it must be brought to justice.

The bombing, about a half hour after the stroke of the New Year, stoked tensions that have grown in recent years between Egypt’s Christians and the Muslim majority.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at:,, and


1. For each of the 5 countries, give the following information:
a) the continent on which it is located
b) the name of the capital city
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different)
e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country: type of government, capital and executive branch (chief of state/head of government) can be found under the “Government” heading; population is listed under the “People” heading.  Go to for a list of continents.]

2. For Spain:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Do you think the government of Spain should be able to regulate whether private business owners permit smoking inside their establishments since cigarettes are legal (but smoking is known to be harmful to a person’s health)? Explain your answer.
c) For either answer above (yes or no) do you think the government should also be able to regulate the type/amount of food people eat at privately owned restaurants, or the number of drinks people can purchase? Explain your answer.
c) Do you support government regulation of legal activities that could be harmful to people’s health (such as the type/amount of food people eat, or the number of drinks people can purchase)? Explain your answer. Ask a parent the same question.

3. For Guinea:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) When did Guinea gain its independence from France?

4. For Mexico:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What prompted the Mexican government to take this action?

5. For China:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why did the government implement this new plan?

6. For Egypt:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) How safe do you think Christians are in Muslim countries? Explain your answer.
c) How safe do you think Muslims are in Christian countries? Explain your answer.


GUINEA:  Read more about the election of Alpha Conde at
Watch a video clip from Alpha Conde’s inauguration below:

MEXICO: Read more about Mexico’s treatment of illegal immigrants in their country at

CHINA:  Watch a video of a 9 DAY traffic-jam that occured in Beijing in 2010:

EGYPT:  Read about attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt at

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