News from the Falkland Islands, Russia and Great Britain

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on March 19, 2013

FALKLAND ISLANDS: ‘Islanders have spoken’ says governor

image781Nigel Haywood, governor of the Falkland Islands, says the Islanders have spoken about the future that they want for themselves and that there is “a lot of optimism about the future.”

Residents of the Falkland Islands voted almost unanimously to stay under British rule in a referendum aimed at winning global sympathy as Argentina intensifies its sovereignty claim.

The official count showed 99.8 per cent of islanders voted in favor of remaining a British Overseas Territory in the two-day referendum, which was rejected by Argentina as a meaningless publicity stunt. Only three “no” votes were cast.

Pro-British feeling is running high in the barren and blustery islands that lie off the tip of Patagonia, and turnout was 92 per cent among the 1,649 Falklands-born and long-term residents registered to vote.

Three decades since Argentina and Britain went to war over the far-flung South Atlantic archipelago, residents have been perturbed by Argentina’s increasingly vocal claim over the Malvinas – as the islands are called in Spanish.

Nigel Haywood, governor of the Falkland Islands, said the referendum was a “massive demonstration of the way the Falkland Islanders feel and of the way they see their future.”

RUSSIA – Putin calls for Soviet-era physical fitness tests in schools

image780Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared with American actor Steven Seagal at a Moscow martial arts school Wednesday, March 13 to promote physical fitness in the nation’s youth. [Seagal’s action films are popular in Russia and he has met the president several times.]

“I think it would be quite appropriate to recall the positive experience of past decades when the so-called GTO, Ready for Labor and Defense, was in use in our country,” he said. The GTO physical training program was introduced under Joseph Stalin in 1931 to prepare youth for service in the Red Army.

Under the program, school and university students were required to pass the physical tests, and those who qualified would receive silver or gold badges. The GTO program ceased to exist when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Putin, 60, has a reputation as a martial artist, outdoorsman and adventurer, frequently appearing in publicity photos participating in extreme sports and tranquilizing wild animals. Part of his popularity is rooted in nostalgia for Soviet-era law and order, and he remains Russia’s most popular politician despite widespread protest and opposition.

“The revival of this system – in a new, modern format – could bring major benefits.” Putin says the nation’s young people need to be fit “to stand up for themselves, their family and, in the final run, the fatherland.”

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told a government meeting chaired by Putin that his agency would work to introduce the physical training standards nationwide by 2016.

GREAT BRITAIN – London rail workers find likely plague burial pit


Workers digging a new railway line in London have uncovered what they believe is a burial ground containing victims of the Black Death – a plague that wiped out as much as half of London’s inhabitants when it swept the city in the mid-14th century.

Workers involved in the London’s Crossrail project located 13 skeletons lying in two carefully laid out rows on the edge of historic Charterhouse Square, an area where historical records suggest a burial ground was located. Project archaeologist Jay Carver said scientists will study the bones to establish cause of death, and hope to map the DNA signature of the plague bacteria. …

At a time long before people moved quickly, the plague traveled fast. The bacillus spread via fleas on rats, cutting a swathe through populations ignorant of its cause.

It began racing from Asia through Europe and North Africa in 1347, moving quickly among people who had no idea how to stop it. By 1348 it struck Great Britain. While estimates vary, it is thought to have killed roughly 75 million people worldwide in a four-year pandemic.

Among the millions killed were thousands of Londoners, though the exact number is unclear because record-keeping was so poor, said Roy Stephenson, the head of the Museum of London’s archaeological collections and archives.

Still there was order in the Charterhouse site, and the regular spacing between the bodies suggests some sort of municipal control, Stephenson said.

The way the bodies are laid out also corresponds to a similar Black Plague burial ground. The depth of the burials – 2.5 meters below a road that surrounds the square – together with artifacts dating from the area, also add to the case that it contained the pandemic’s victims. …

Scientists have brought the remains to the Museum of London Archaeology for laboratory testing, hoping to map the DNA signature of the bacteria, which could be found in the teeth or bones. Radiocarbon dating could also be used to establish burial dates.

But there’s no chance that a new outbreak of bubonic plague might be ignited from the find. Stephenson said the bacillus is quite fragile and dies without a host.

Researchers hope, simply, that the study of the bones might add to an understanding of the plague and the lives of the people who lived in the city at the time. …

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at London’s Daily Telegraph on March 12, UPI on March 13 and on March 15.)   



Although first sighted by an English navigator in 1592, the first landing (English) did not occur until almost a century later in 1690, and the first settlement (French) was not established until 1764. The colony was turned over to Spain two years later and the islands have since been the subject of a territorial dispute, first between Britain and Spain, then between Britain and Argentina. The UK asserted its claim to the islands by establishing a naval garrison there in 1833. Argentina invaded the islands on 2 April 1982. The British responded with an expeditionary force that landed seven weeks later and after fierce fighting forced an Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982. With hostilities ended and Argentine forces withdrawn, UK administration resumed. (from the CIA World FactBook)

NOTE: The area now known as Argentina was relatively sparsely populated until the period of European colonization.  The Spanish established more permanent colonies it in the late 1500s.

The population of the Falkland Islands, estimated at 2,841, primarily consists of native Falkland Islanders, the vast majority being of British descent. Other ethnicities include French, Gibraltarian, and Scandinavian. Immigration from the United Kingdom, Saint Helena, and Chile has reversed a former population decline. The predominant and official language is English. Under the British Nationality Act of 1983, Falkland Islanders are legally British citizens. (from wikipedia)