A year in international news

Each year brings with it a new fury of international issues. In order to navigate through this year’s biggest headlines in world news, as well as afford stories the coverage they deserve, Cord International chose to provide a month-to-month breakdown of the top stories across the globe.

April 2009

In April, the Obama administration outlawed water boarding – a controversial intelligence technique in which interrogators make captives feel as though they are drowning. The labeling of this practice as torture set a precedent in the United States intelligence community. This is because water boarding is known to have been used on three al-Qaeda prisoners under the Bush administration. However, critics of the policy change argue water boarding has been proven to thwart terrorist attacks.

-Compiled by Amalia Biro

May 2009

In May, Sri Lanka’s decade-long civil conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel militia and government forces came to a close after a highly aggressive military campaign. The government’s actions were decried by the United Nations and Human Rights organizations as excessive after bombing assaults left thousands of civilians dead or trapped within the warzone. In the aftermath, nearly 300,000 ethnic Tamils were detained in a series of Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps until their affiliation with the LTTE could be determined. With their leadership either assassinated or detained, the LTTE remains indefinitely defunct.

-Compiled by Praveen Alwis

June 2009

In June, Iran’s ongoing political drama heated up as President Ahmadinejad claimed re-election victory and thousands took to the streets in protest. According to the Washington Post, these demonstrations were entirely pre-arranged via Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere. Reportedly, Twitter’s influence on the Iranian political situation was so profound that even American officials took notice. In turn, the U.S. State Department asked Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance of their site as to not disrupt communication between the dissident movement organizers and their supporters within Iran’s borders. In light of this summer’s events, many have since coined the revolt “a Twitter revolution”.

-Compiled by Paula Millar

July 2009

Over a three-day period, the Islamic militant group Boko Haram staged retaliatory attacks for the arrest of its leaders in northeastern Nigeria. The attacks spanned across four cities and targeted police stations and civilian establishments. Nigerian security forces promptly responded by attacking known safe houses used by the sect’s followers. This has been the worst case of sectarian violence in Nigeria since November of 2008. It was reported that the threeday conflict killed over 750 people.

-Compiled by Alexandros Mitsiopoulos

August 2009

After nearly five months of captivity in North Korea, American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling were officially pardoned of their alleged crimes on Aug. 5. The pair had been working for the independent television network Current TV when their work carried them across the border from the People’s Republic of China into North Korea. Their trials found them guilty of illegal entry, as neither possessed visas. They were subsequently sentenced to 12 years of hard labour. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton played an integral part in the women’s release, personally meeting and negotiating with head of state Kim Jong-il.

-Compiled by Alexandros Mitsiopoulos

September 2009

Uproar at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September ensued after Canadian foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon and other foreign delegates walked out during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address. The officials protested against the Iranian leader for divulging countless anti-Israeli remarks, while dismissing the Holocaust as a “myth” used to justify the occupation of Palestinian lands. Delegates also expressed concern over the many individuals jailed and executed for challenging Ahmadinejad’s re-election victory last June. Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, an internationally-renowned documentary filmmaker, was jailed for covering the Iranian election and interviewing dissenters.

-Compiled by Nikicia Phillips

October 2009

In October, a European Union (EU) fact-finding mission made waves in the international community. The commission concluded that the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia was unjust. Upon investigation, Georgia was found to be at fault for the conflict; an unprovoked Georgian attack on Russia was the source of blame. The escalation of tensions between the two countries began when each accused the other of a military buildup in the contested regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

-Compiled by Amalia Biro

November 2009

Nov. 9, 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Communist East Germany had erected the 155-kilometre concrete barrier in 1961 to encircle the capitalist enclave of West Berlin. It was constructed in an effort to stop citizens of East Germany from fleeing into West Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 led to the reunification of Germany and the end of the Cold War. The BBC reported that anniversary celebrations were attended by tens of thousands of people. Guests included Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom.

-Compiled by Marie Andic

December 2009

In December, 192 world leaders gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark for the 15th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference. The convention, a failure in many opinions, ended without solidifying concrete goals and agreements. In addition, previously-articulated goals were dropped, such as the goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 per cent before 2050. After days of little progress, U.S. President Barack Obama engaged in a backroom agreement with Brazil, China, India and South Africa. What emerged was the Copenhagen Accord, which – although not supported by everyone – includes goals to reduce emissions by 2020, short-term funding and long-term financing for environmentally-friendly projects and a goal of maintaining a two degree maximum temperature rise.

-Compiled by Deanna Sim

January 2010

On Jan. 12, the world was shocked when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake stuck Haiti. The epicenter of the earthquake was 25 kilometres from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Officials place the death toll at approximately 230,000, and over one million Haitians have been left homeless by the earthquake. The Haitian government estimates that it will cost $11.5 billion to rebuild the already-impoverished nation after the devastating damage of the earthquake. The disaster resulted in an outpouring of aid from the international community, and the federal government has pledged to match any donation made to a recognized Canadian charity working in Haiti.

-Compiled by Marie Andic

February 2010

At the beginning of February, Ukraine was gearing up for the second round of presidential elections, because in the first round no single candidate managed to secure 50 per cent of the vote. With the elimination of one candidate after the January election, Viktor Yanukovich and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko were left to compete in the second round, held on February 7. After the votes were counted, 48.96 per cent of the vote went to Yanukovich and 45.47 per cent went to Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko appealed the results to the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine, but withdrew the appeal on Feb. 20 and accepted defeat.

-Compiled by Deanna Sim

March 2010

After a prolonged and highly contested build up, on March 21 the U.S. House of Representatives approved President Barack Obama’s health care reform bill. Obama’s reform plan prevents insurance companies from refusing service on the basis of preexisting conditions. Furthermore, the mandate states that all citizens must purchase a health insurance plan under threat of fine, similar to current auto insurance policy. Low-income families unable to afford insurance premiums are to receive financial assistance from the government. The controversial bill did not receive a single Republican vote and has been criticized by Conservatives as being fiscally unfeasible. Immediately after the bill’s passing, 13 GOP states attorneys filed a lawsuit against the federal government on the grounds that the plan violated the rights of states.

-Compiled by Praveen Alwis