News from around the World

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on January 25, 2011

CHINA – China seizes rare-earth districts 

The Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources has invoked a seldom-used law to take control of 11 rare-earth mining districts in southern China, the latest sign of Beijing’s efforts to manage more tightly the production and export of crucial minerals used in a wide range of technologies and products vital to the West.

BRAZIL – Government will try to harness floods 

Brazil will create a nationwide disaster-prevention and early warning system after recent floods and landslides that killed more than 750 people in mountain towns north of Rio de Janeiro, government officials said. The government also will invest $6.7 billion through 2014 in water-drainage and hillside-recovery projects across the country in an effort to prevent future flooding and slides, Planning Minister Miriam Belchior said.

LEBANON – Hezbollah gets support in Lebanon 

A potential kingmaker in Lebanese politics threw his support behind Hezbollah, a major boost to the Shiite militant group that brought down the country’s Western-backed government last week. Walid Jumblatt, the influential leader of the Druse sect, refused to say exactly how many lawmakers are with him, but his support is key ahead of parliamentary talks Monday to pick a new prime minister.

BELARUS – Government withdraws threat 

Authorities in Belarus have allowed the 3-year-old son of a jailed presidential candidate and opponent of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko to remain with his family after threatening to place him in an orphanage.

SUDAN – Southern Sudan votes for split 

Nearly 99 percent of southern Sudanese voters have chosen to split off from northern Sudan and form their own country, according to preliminary results of an independence referendum conducted this month. The commission that ran the referendum said Friday that 98.6 percent voted for secession, 1.4 percent for unity, according to more than 3 million votes cast, which brings the largest African country a step closer to splitting.

(The news briefs above are from World News Briefs posted at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, STLtoday.com, on Friday, Jan. 21 and Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Questions

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 worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

2. For China:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) The minerals are crucial for making a wide range of technologies and products (including green products) vital to the U.S. and other Western countries. What do you think is the government’s motive for taking control of the mines?

3. For Brazil:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What will the Brazilian government do to prevent future flooding and mudslides?

4. For Lebanon:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) When will a new prime minister be chosen in Lebanon?

5. For Belarus:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Read the full story under “Resources” below the questions under “Belarus.” Who was trying to keep the boy out of an orphanage while his parents are in prison?

6. For Sudan:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item


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

Background

CHINA: 

  • China produces 92 percent of the world’s light rare earths like cerium and lanthanum, which are used in applications like glass manufacturing and oil refining, and 99 percent of the world’s heavy rare earths like dysprosium, which are used in trace amounts but are vital for products like smartphones and compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • China has repeatedly cut its quotas for exports of rare earth minerals from government-approved mines and refineries in the last two years, while raising taxes on the exports.
  • It separately imposed a two-month, unannounced ban on exports of rare earths to Japan during a territorial dispute last September and carefully checked other countries’ orders for rare earths to discourage trans-shipment to Japan.
  • The Obama administration has included China’s export restrictions on rare earths in a broad investigation of whether China has violated World Trade Organization rules to help its clean energy exports; the United Steelworkers union has accused China of limiting exports of rare earths to force manufacturers to move their factories to China, an accusation supported by comments in 2009 by Chinese provincial officials saying exactly that. (from nytimes.com)

———————————————————————————

LEBANON (ON HEZBOLLAH):

Hezbollah, whose name means “party of God,” is a terrorist group believed responsible for nearly 200 attacks since 1982 that have killed more than 800 people. It was founded in 1982 in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley by a Shia clergyman educated in Iran. Hezbollah’s stated objectives include:

  • the establishment of a Shiite theocracy in Lebanon
  • the destruction of Israel
  • the elimination of Western influences from the Middle East.

Hezbollah is an umbrella organization of various radical Islamic Shi’ite groups and organizations which receives substantial financial and philosophical support from Iran.

In 2006, Hezbollah fighters raided an Israeli border post and kidnapped two soldiers. This touched off a war between Israel and Hezbollah that lasted a month until the Israeli and Lebanese governments agreed to a cease-fire under a United Nations Security Council deal, resolution 1701. Resolution 1701 calls for the “full cessation of hostilities” between Hezbollah and Israel. It sketches a plan for the phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and calls for an expanded peacekeeping force there (of 15,000 U.N. troops).

(from telegraph.co.uk)

  • Hizbollah brought down Hariri’s Western-backed government earlier this month, after he refused the group’s demand to cease co-operation with a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, his father. Hizbollah denies any role in the killing, but is widely expected to be indicted.
  • The militant group’s Western-backed opponents maintain that having an Iranian proxy in control of Lebanon’s government would be disastrous and lead to international isolation.
  • The United States, which has poured in $720 million in military aid since 2006, has tried to end the influence of Hizbollah, Syria and Iran.

————————————————————————

BELARUS:

  • Since his election in 1994 as president, Alyaksandr Lukashenko has consolidated his power over all institutions and undermined the rule of law through authoritarian means, manipulated elections, and arbitrary decrees.
  • Subsequent presidential elections have not been free or fair, and the September 2008 parliamentary election failed to meet international standards.
  • The government’s human rights record remained very poor as government authorities continued to commit frequent serious abuses.
  • Prison conditions remained extremely poor, and reports of abuse of prisoners and detainees continued.
  • Arbitrary arrests, detentions, and imprisonment of citizens for political reasons, criticizing officials, or for participating in demonstrations also continued.
  • The government further restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of press, speech, assembly, association, and religion and continued to enforce politically motivated military conscriptions of opposition youth leaders.
  • State security services used unreasonable force to disperse peaceful protesters. Corruption continued to be a problem.
  • Religious leaders were fined or deported for performing services, and churches continued to face persecution from authorities. (from state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm)

Resources

CHINA: Read about rare earth elements at: reuters.com.

BRAZIL: Read about recent floods in Brazil at studentnewsdaily.com/daily-news-article/brazil-landslide-and-flood-toll-reaches-640.

LEBANON:

BELARUS:  Read more about Lukashenko’s opponent at santacruzsentinel.com/world/ci_17086479.

SUDAN:  Read about southern Sudan splitting at trust.org/alertnet/news/darfur-fears-as-attention-shifts-to-south-sudan and how that will affect the people of Darfur, who according to the UN, some 300,000 [black Africans] have been killed in Darfur by the [Arab] government and over 2.6 million have been displaced since 2003, with more than 4.7 million people affected overall.