News from around the World

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on October 12, 2010

(The excerpts below are from WashingtonTimes.com – from wire dispatches and Washington Times staff reports)

ISRAEL – Cabinet approves loyalty oath

JERUSALEM | Israel’s mainly right-wing government on Sunday overwhelmingly voted for legislation requiring non-Jewish new citizens to swear allegiance to the country as a Jewish [and democratic state].

The measure has been widely condemned as racist by Israel’s Arab minority but appeared designed to placate hard-line ministers ahead of a decision to extend a settlement moratorium seen as key to U.S.-backed peace efforts with the Palestinians.

It still has to be approved by parliament before becoming law.

KYRGYZSTAN – Voters turn out for historic election

OSH | Voters turned out in force Sunday in Kyrgyzstan to choose a new and empowered parliament that the government hopes will usher in an unprecedented era of democracy.

This former Soviet nation, which hosts a vital U.S. air base near Afghanistan, is set to embrace a parliamentary system of governance in a largely untroubled vote that has won praise from the United States.

The vote came after an exhausting year of political turbulence and ethnic violence in the south.

A fair vote among the 29 competing parties and the creation of a strong legislature would set Kyrgyzstan apart from the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia, where power is usually held by authoritarian and unaccountable leaders. A democratic Kyrgyzstan also would create a sense of unease in the neighboring countries and may help nurture the seedlings of democratic ideals.

HUNGARY – Rush to build dam in case of new flood

KOLONTAR | Hungary raced against time on Sunday to erect a dam around a ruptured reservoir and divert a new wave of toxic sludge that threatens to overwhelm already devastated villages.

As hundreds of volunteers joined engineers rushing to erect the 2,000-foot dam, a top official said it was only a matter of days before the reservoir housing a chemical residue would begin to crumble.

Repair work also continued on the reservoir itself where cracks have been detected, raising fears that what is already Hungary’s worst environmental disaster could soon get even worse.

At least seven people were killed when the sludge first began seeping from the reservoir next to an aluminum plant before then cascading into nearby villages and tributaries of the Danube.

SWITZERLAND – Swiss army faces costly downsizing

GENEVA | Switzerland will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars cutting staff and scrapping equipment as it dramatically downsizes its armed forces, Defense Minister Ueli Maurer said Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Swiss government gave Mr. Maurer a year to come up with a plan to reduce troop numbers from more than 184,000 to 80,000.

The government aims to cap defense spending at $4.6 billion annually.

The downsizing would entail layoffs within the defense department and the army, and a corresponding decommissioning of excess equipment, Mr. Maurer said in an interview with German language newspaper Sonntag.

Switzerland has not been directly involved in an armed conflict since the 19th century.

THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch Antilles dissolves; two countries created

MIAMI | The former Dutch Caribbean colonies of Curacao and St. Maarten became autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Sunday in a change of constitutional status that dissolved the Netherlands Antilles.

The two joined Aruba, which in 1986 already had gained such status that maintains direct ties with the Netherlands, while three other islands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, became autonomous special municipalities of the Netherlands in the dissolution of the 56-year-old Netherlands Antilles territory.

Under the new arrangement, the Dutch government will remain responsible for defense and foreign policy in the new countries, and have initial oversight over Curacao’s finances under a debt relief deal.

NOTE: The news blurbs above are from World Scene published at WashingtonTimes.com on Sunday, October 10, 2010 and from Briefly published at WashingtonTimes.com on Sunday, October 10, 2010.

Copyright 2010 The Washington Times, LLC.  Reprinted from the Washington Times for educational purposes only.  Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.

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 Israel:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Israel was founded as a Jewish nation. Should new citizens who are not Jewish be required to swear allegiance to the country as a Jewish and democratic state? Explain your answer.
c) Should all countries require new citizens to swear allegiance to their new country? Explain your answer.

3. For Kyrgyzstan:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) List all 5 of the former soviet republics of Central Asia.
c) How might a successful free and fair election in Kyrgyzstan affect the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia?

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

5. For Switzerland:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) When was the last time Switzerland was directly involved in an armed conflict?

6. For the Netherlands:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What are the people and the language of the Netherlands called in English?


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Background

KYRGYZSTAN: (from the CIA World FactBook website)

  • Most of Kyrgyzstan was formally annexed to Russia in 1876.
  • The Kyrgyz staged a major revolt against the Tsarist Empire in 1916 in which almost one-sixth of the Kyrgyz population was killed.
  • Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic in 1936 and achieved independence in 1991 when the USSR dissolved.
  • Nationwide demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar Akaev, who had run the country since 1990.
  • Subsequent presidential elections in July 2005 were won overwhelmingly by former prime minister Kurmanbek Bakiev.
  • Over the next few years, the new president manipulated the parliament to accrue new powers for himself.
  • In July 2009, after months of harassment against his opponents and media critics, Bakiev won re-election in a presidential campaign that the international community deemed flawed.
  • In April 2010, nationwide protests led to the resignation and expulsion of Bakiev. 
  • Bakiev was replaced by Acting President Roza Otunbayeva who called for new elections in six months time.

SWITZERLAND: (from wisegeek.com)

  • Switzerland remains militarily neutral largely because the country itself is especially vulnerable to invasion from any one of its powerful neighbors, specifically France, Italy, Austria or Germany. Political neutrality for a small country with a limited military capacity is generally preferable to a hostile takeover from a belligerent neighbor. As long as Switzerland is officially recognized as neutral, no country can legally form plans to invade it or use it as a base of operations. A neutral country can accept refugees or political prisoners, but it is not obligated to join peacekeeping missions after the conflict ends. …
  • Switzerland’s policies and practices during WWII, however, did raise a number of concerns about its neutrality among Allied countries. Nazi Germany did maintain an economic relationship with Switzerland throughout the entire war. Swiss bankers were distressingly willing to establish secret accounts for Nazi officers seeking safe storage of money and other valuables looted from countries overtaken by the German war machine. While Swiss diplomats also provided safe passage for victims of Nazi oppression, the Swiss government often came perilously close to appearing politically allied with Germany.

THE NETHERLANDS: (from wikipedia.org)

  • More than one name is used to refer to the Netherlands, both in English and in other languages. Some of these names refer to different, but overlapping geographical, linguistic and political areas of the country. This is a common source of confusion for outsiders.
  • In English the country is called ‘the Netherlands’ (or frequently ‘Holland’), while the people and the language are called ‘Dutch’.
  • In Dutch the official (and predominant) terms for these are ‘Nederland’ for the country, ‘Nederlanders’ for the people and ‘Nederlands’ for the language, although they are occasionally (colloquially) called ‘Holland’, ‘Hollanders’ and ‘Hollands’ respectively.

THE NETHERLANDS ANTILLES: (from wikipedia.org)

  • The Netherlands Antilles, also referred to informally as the Dutch Antilles, was an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of two groups of islands in the Lesser Antilles: Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, in Leeward Antilles just off the Venezuelan coast; and Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten, in the Leeward Islands southeast of the Virgin Islands.
  • Aruba seceded in 1986 as a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the rest of the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on 10 October 2010,resulting in two new constituent countries, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, with the other islands joining the Netherlands as special municipalities.

Resources

ISRAEL:  Read a “Brief History of Israel and the Jewish People” at science.co.il/israel-history.asp.

THE NETHERLANDS:  Go to worldatlas.com for a map of the Netherlands Antilles.

HUNGARY:  Watch a video of the reservoir in Hungary below: