INDIA – India, Pakistan agree to resume peace talks

New Delhi | India and Pakistan announced Thursday the resumption of peace talks suspended more than two years ago after Islamist gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai.

In simultaneous statements issued in New Delhi and Islamabad, the nuclear-armed neighbors and longtime rivals said they had “agreed to resume dialogue on all issues.”

They also announced that Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi would visit India by July to “review progress” in the dialogue process.


AUSTRALIA – Prime minister introduces disaster tax

Canberra | Australia’s prime minister has introduced tax legislation to Parliament that would raise $1.8 billion to help pay for record storm and flood damage across the country’s east.

In presenting the legislation Thursday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the government’s bill for weeks of flooding in northeast Queensland state was at least $5.6 billion.

The legislation will be scrutinized by a parliamentary committee before lawmakers vote on it in a few weeks.

Opposition lawmakers oppose the tax and argue that the government should instead cut foreign aid to Indonesia.


CHINA – Hackers hit oil companies

Beijing | Hackers operating from China stole sensitive information from Western oil companies, a U.S. security firm reported Thursday, adding to complaints about pervasive Internet crime traced to the country.

The report by McAfee Inc. did not identify the companies but said the “coordinated, covert and targeted” attacks began in November 2009 and targeted computers of oil and gas companies in the United States, Taiwan, Greece and Kazakhstan. It said the attackers stole information on operations, bidding for oil fields and financing.

The report did not offer evidence that the attacks were anything other than the standard flavor of corporate espionage that plagues businesses around the world…


IVORY COAST: Gbagbo loyalists order U.N. radio off the air

Abidjan | United Nations radio was ordered off the air in Ivory Coast by a regulatory board loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, though the station refused to comply Thursday.

The National Council for Audio-Visual Communication revoked the U.N. radio’s permit to broadcast in a decree Wednesday, saying the decision would take effect immediately.

However, work continued as normal at the station’s headquarters Thursday, said U.N. radio director Sylvain Semilinko, adding that preparations were being made in case their signal was jammed.

Ivory Coast has been gripped by political crisis since a Nov. 28 presidential election run-off, which the electoral commission said was won by Gbagbo’s opponent, Alassane Ouattara.


RUSSIA: Girls in skirts help group demand snow removal

St. Petersburg | Too much snow and not enough beaus – so says a squad of mini-skirted, high-heeled young women wielding snow shovels in Russia’s second city.

Seven women dressed [in attractive outfits] came to the frigid square in front of St. Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral on Thursday to chip away at snow and ice and demand better city snow removal. They’re affiliated with XZ, a group that uses beautiful women to draw attention to social problems.

Spokeswoman Eva Tornado claimed that tourism experts say foreign visitors avoid St. Petersburg in the winter because of the city’s problems in dealing with its snow…


(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at: and on Feb. 10th and 11th.)


1. For each of the 5 countries, give the following information:  (Include special notations for all information on the Ivory Coast)
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) [If monarch, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent]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 India:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Why aren’t India and Pakistan allies? (see “Background” below the questions for the answer.)
c) Were you surprised to read that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons? Explain your answer.

3. For Australia:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Which proposed solution to pay for the massive flood damage do you think would be better for Australians:
-Prime Minister Gillard’s proposal to raise taxes (PM Gillard belongs to the Labor Party, which supports more liberal positions)
-the opposition’s proposal to cut foreign aid to Indonesia (the opposition supports conservative/libertarian positions)
Explain your answer.
c) People are usually very generous after catastrophic natural disasters. Should the Prime Minister attempt to ask for donations first, before proposing a tax forcing Australians to contribute to reconstruction in Queensland? Explain your answer.

4. For China:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) The Chinese government is known for hacking (or paying hackers) to infiltrate the websites of the U.S. government, as well as private companies. Chinese officials deny any allegations of such behavior. What do you think the U.S. government should do to prevent/end the Chinese from hacking into our confidential information?

5. For Ivory Coast:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Wikipedia defines incumbent as follows: incumbent, in politics, is the existing holder of a political office. Read the bullet points on Ivory Coast under “Background” below the questions. Why do you think the news brief on Ivory Coast referred to Gbagbo as the incumbent?

6. For Russia:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Read the additional information under Russia under “Background” below the questions. Do you think using beautiful women to draw attention to social problems is a good idea? Explain your answer.
c) Do you think people will take them seriously?  Explain your answer. 



  • The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved, and India and Pakistan fought two wars – in 1947-48 and 1965 – over the disputed Kashmir territory.
  • A third war between these countries in 1971 – in which India capitalized on Islamabad’s marginalization of Bengalis in Pakistani politics – resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh.
  • In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998.
  • India-Pakistan relations have been rocky since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks [Muslim terrorists from Pakistan killed hundreds in Mumbai], but both countries are taking small steps to put relations back on track. (from


  • A presidential election was held in two rounds in the Ivory Coast on October 31, 2010 and Nov. 28, 2010, in which President Laurent Gbagbo faced opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.
  • Originally scheduled to be held in 2005, the vote was delayed several times due to the Ivorian Civil War and difficulties involved in the organization and preparation of the election.
  • A peace agreement between the government and the former rebel New Forces was signed in March 2007, and in late April 2009, it was announced that the election would be held by December 6, 2009…
  • The election, in which ethnicity and the country’s north-south divide played a crucial role, ultimately pitted President Gbagbo, who had a strong support base in the south, against the long-time opposition leader and former Prime Minister Ouattara, who had overwhelming support in much of the north.
  • The events leading up to the second round and following it were characterized by serious tension and some incidents of violence, but the election was considered by observers to be essentially free and fair.
  • On December 2, 2010, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) released provisional results showing that Ouattara had won the election in the second round with 54% of the vote.
  • However, the President of the Constitutional Council immediately declared that the results were invalid and the next day, the Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner.  
  • Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claimed victory and took the presidential oath of office. The ensuing events lead to the 2010-2011 Ivorian crisis.
  • The international community, including the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union, the United States, and former colonial power France have affirmed their support for Ouattara, who is “almost universally acknowledged to have defeated [Gbagbo] at the ballot box,” and have called for Gbagbo to step down.
  • On December 18, Gbagbo ordered all UN peacekeepers to leave the country.
  • However, the UN has refused, and the Security Council has extended the mandate of the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire until June 30, 2011.
  • International powers have been in talks to enlarge the UN force in the Ivory Coast.
  • The World Bank has halted loans to the country and travel restrictions have been placed on Gbagbo and his political allies.
  • The rising political tensions have resulted in a sharp jump in cocoa prices, up to an increase of 10 percent. The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of the crop. (from wikipedia)


  • [The women representing the group XZ] demanded that [St. Petersberg] city authorities take the clean-up of snow and ice seriously.
  • The group’s spokeswoman, Eva Tornado, also claimed that tourism experts say foreign visitors avoid St. Petersburg in the winter because of the city’s inability to deal with its snow and ice
  • “We have experienced this snow since last November. The (city) administration, the municipal services management companies and others do nothing to solve the problem. You see, we are still in snow…. So we decided to come out on our own. Maybe it will serve as an example to some males and they may come to help and make our city cleaner,” added Tornado.
  • The protest comes after a six-year-old boy’s death when a block of ice fell on him from a building last month.
  • In addition to that the local hospital has reported treating more than 200 people with injuries they sustained from the snow and ice. (from an AP article at



Go to for maps of India and Pakistan.

For a map of Kashmir, go to


Read a news article on the Australian floods at

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