As we reflect on this week’s news roundup, we are reminded of the preciousness of life and how we cannot take it for granted. These past seven days have not been easy ones. The world watched in horror as children were killed in Pakistan and hostages were taken in a Sydney cafe. These events bring into perspective that we as global citizens must stand together in times of darkness to spread the message of hope and peace.
Each Friday, we bring you a roundup of some of the biggest stories making headlines around the world. Here’s 10 things that happened outside of Vancouver over the past week that you should know about (in no particular order):
December 12 to December 18, 2014
1. Taliban attack on Peshawar School leaves 132 children dead
Image: Agence France-Presse/Getty
On Tuesday, Pakistan witnessed one the worst massacre in the nation’s history. Seven Taliban fighters armed with guns stormed into a school located in the north-western city of Peshawar killing 132 children and nine school staff and leaving 125 wounded. The attack was conducted by militants from Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Taliaban group as a retaliation to a government led military opperation on the Taliban in the northern region of the country.
“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said Muhammad Umar Khorasani, a Taliban spokesmen. State leaders around the world have spoken out against the attack. Even the Afghan Taliban has said that the murder of the school children was “un-Islamic.”
After the tragedy, Pakistan began a three day period if nationwide mourning. Pakistani president, Nawaz Sharif has lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in terrorist cases and he has vowed to increase military action against the Taliban.
2. Two hostages killed in 16-hour siege at a Sydney café
Image: AFP/Channel Seven
Seventeen customers and staff at Sydney’s Lindt Chocolat Cafe were taken hostage by an armed gunman identified as Man Haron Monis on Monday afternoon. After a 16-hour standoff police stormed the cafe early Tuesday morning, in reaction to hearing gunfire go off inside the building. Fifteen of the hostages were freed. However, 38-year-old lawyer, Katrina Dawson, and the 34-year-old manager of the establishment, Tori Johnson, were killed. The 50-year-old gunman also died on scene.
Monis was well known to Australian authorities, being previously charged as an accessory to murder in the death of his ex-wife and being sentenced to community service for writing offensive letters to families of soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. Initially, many thought that Monis was linked to ISIS. However, it was revealed that this was a “lone wolf” act of terrorism.
3. North Korea held responsible for Sony hacks
Image: Jerome Kundrotas/Shutterstock
This week, Sony Entertainment Pictures was hacked, resulting in private information regarding actors, movie scripts, and emails to be made public. Furthermore, the hacker group, known as ‘The Guardians of Peace,’ threatened movie theatres in North America. They warned of “9-11 style attacks” if The Interview, a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogan playing journalists hired to kill North Korean President Kim Jong Un, was released. As a result, several major theatre chains decided not to show the film and on Wednesday, Sony decided to not release the film at all. It was then announced that American intelligence officials had determined that North Korea was behind the hack.
4. Halifax’s Dalhousie University prompts investigation into male dentistry students’ sexually explicit Facebook page
Image: Dalhousie University
A Facebook page, entitled “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” is under investigation by Dalhousie University as it was discovered that 13 male dentistry students attending the school were posting offensive, inappropriate and misogynistic comments about female dentistry students and women in general. The page, which was taken down last week, featured posts and comments about non-consual sex involving chloroform to make women unconscious. The University has decided that a restorative justice process will be used to resolve the matter.
5. Over 200 bodies of people killed by ISIS found in mass grave in Syria
Image: Dona Bozzi/Shutterstock
The bodies of 230 people killed by ISIS have been found in a mass gravel located in Syria’s Deir Ezzor Province. It has been reported that the majority of the victims were civilians belonging to the Shaitat tribe who were killed by ISIS militants after they tried to resist against the control of the terrorist organization. The recent discovery of this mass grave has brought the number of Shaitat killed by ISIS in the Deir Ezzor region to 900. ISIS has control over the majority of northern and eastern Syria as well as parts of Iraq.
6. New chapter begins for US-Cuba relations
On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama announced that steps would be taken to normalize and improve the diplomatic and economic ties between the United States and Cuba. Current Cuban President, Raul Castro, welcomed the decision. The announcement comes after year long secret talks with Canada and the Vatican with Pope Francis. Furthermore, the decision was also made possible by the release of US contractor Alan Gross and three Cubans from the US. There are plans for a US consulate to open in Havana in the near future as well as an ease on American travel restrictions to the country. In the 1960s, the US ended diplomatic relations and introduced a trade embargo with Cuba due to its decision to move towards Socialist policies.
7. Russian President Vladimir Putin reassures that Russian economy will rebound
Image: Frederic Legrand/Shutterstock
After the value of the ruble (Russia’s currency) dramatically fell this past year, Vladimir Putin assured Russians their economy would bounce back. In a three-hour news conference, Putin explained that the fall of Russia’s economy was due to external factors, such as the crisis in the Ukraine which he says was caused by the West. However, Putin did not offer any solutions to Russia’s growing financial crisis. The ruble has fallen to approximately 45 per cent of the dollar this year. The ongoing sanctions the West has placed on Russia because of its involvement with the Ukraine have been a major factor in the ruble’s decline in value.
8. Boko Haram suspected to have kidnapped 172 women and children in Nigeria
It is suspected that gunmen belonging to the militant Islamic group Boko Haram captured 172 women and children on Sunday in the northeastern region of Gumsuri, Nigeria. A villager who survived the raid reported that at least 33 civilians had also been killed. Boko Haram (which translates to English as “Western education is sinful”) is a group demanding for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria. The group was also responsible for the kidnapping of 200 women last April from a school in Chibok, Nigeria.
9. Only five white rhinos left in the world
One of the last remaining white rhinos in the world, died Sunday at the San Diego Zoo, meaning merely five white rhinos remain on Earth. The 44-year-old male rhino named Angalifu, was under veterinary care at the zoo for various illnesses. The last of the living white rhinos are all held in captivity.
As for more offspring being born, the chances are very low as four of the five remaining white rhinos are females. However, The San Diego Zoo has preserved Angalifu’s semen and testicular tissues in hopes that reproductive technologies will allow for a revival of the species. The extinction of the white rhino can be blamed on poachers who have killed the animals for their valuable horns.
10. Oil Spill in Bangladesh’s mangrove forest threatens eco-system and health of animals and residents
Image: Salman Saeed/ BBC
Approximately 52,000 gallons of bunker oil has spilled in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans- the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest. The Sundarbans are home to many exotic and rare species of animals, such as the Irrawaddy, Gangetic dolphins and the endangered Bengal tiger. The oil spilt when the tanker transporting it was hit by a cargo ship inside the Chadpai dolphin sanctuary.
The Bangladeshi government has been criticized for its slow response to clean up the spill. Residents in the area have taken it upon themselves to try the spill using whatever they can find to salvage the beautiful forest. On Thursday, the UN said it would send a special team to help them with the oil spill removal process.