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October 8, 2008
Maldives holds historic election


The capital of Maldives, Male.

Voters in the island nation of Maldives went to the polls today for the first time in 30 years. Polling for the presidential election was extended after reports of irregularities.

The election pits 30-year incumbent President Mamoun Abdul Gayoom — Asia’s longest-serving leader — against a variety of opposition candidates including those from the Maldivian Democratic Party. Gayoom promised a more genuine democratic system following riots in the capital, Male, in August 2004.

A resident of Male at the “Club Escape” blog writes about the voting experience and calls the election a circus.

The “Dhivehi Observer” blog, from the authors of an independent publication banned by Gayoom, posts about problems voting in the town of Vilimale, where thousands of people are waiting to vote with only one booth.

The blog also covers other irregularities, including problems with ink and rigged voting, as well as a history of the last 30 years and a stinging critique of Gayoom.

A citizen journalist at the Maldives Chronicle writes that Gayoom may be defeated.

The “Maldives Dissent” blog writes about each of the candidates and predicts victory for either independent candidate Hassan Saeed or Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Mohamed Nasheed. The blogger has criticized both Gayoom and the Madivian Democratic Party.

About 208,000 people are eligible to vote in Maldives — roughly the population size of Boise, Idaho.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user jinaa under a Creative Commons license.

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October 7, 2008
Thai protests intensify political divide


AUDIO: Simon Montlake of The Christian Science Monitor discusses the impact of the Thai protest on the country’s relationship with the U.S. and on its tourism industry.


A protesting member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy wears a mask and goggles for protection.

Protests turned to violence today in Bangkok, leaving two dead and nearly 400 injured.

Police fired tear gas on thousands of  protesters who blockaded the Thai parliament. The anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) campaigned against current Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. The PAD contests that Wongsawat is a puppet for his brother-in-law and ousted Thai leader, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned because of excessive police force. He led the negotiations with protesters and oversaw security of the country.

The “Voice from Thais” blog provides a chronology of the political crisis.

Flickr user adaptorplug provides vivid images of protesters and police in Bangkok, accompanied with descriptions of the events.

According to the “Musings of a Modern Guy” blog, the tension stems from a rich-poor divide.

The “News in Bangkok” blog accuses the PAD of trying to end democracy. In the Asia Sentinel, Giles Ji Unphakorn outlines the gap in ideology between rich and poor, criticizing the PAD.

The “Volunteering: Thailand” blog writes that both sides show no sign of backing down, posting images and pleading for peace.

In the PAD’s official blog, they provide answers to criticisms and defend their campaign.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user adaptorplug under a Creative Commons license.

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October 7, 2008
Racist attacks echo across Europe

Italians protested the murder of Burkina Faso native Abdul Salam Guibre and racism in Italy on Sept. 20.

Across Europe, hate crimes have made the headlines.

Today in Denmark, two men face extradition for producing right-wing hate music.

In Russia, skinhead attacks on non-Russians have accelerated in the wake of the conflict with Georgia. Last week, a neo-Nazi youth gang admitted to murdering 20 people and wounding dozens more in race-based attacks.

A United Kingdom feminist blog called “The F Word” writes about racist violence against Africans in Russia.

And in Italy, an African immigrant’s death and other racially-motivated attacks set the stage for a large anti-racism protest in Rome.

“The Hip and the Square” blog asks, “Is Italy racist?” and explores a shifting mood surrounding immigration.

An Italian journalist at “Desperate Italians” criticizes the government’s response to the increase in violence against immigrants.

The European Union opened its first immigration center in Mali on Monday and a pact for more uniform and stricter immigration guidelines may be implemented next week.

The “Europe in the World” blog writes that the forthcoming pact is the only feasible current solution, despite its many failings.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user nene_nabou under a Creative Commons license.

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October 6, 2008
Bloggers address root of Kenyan food crisis

A fruit seller in Kenya. Source: IRIN

As officials from 53 countries meet to discuss the world’s food and fuel crises, African nations continue to be some of the hardest-hit by rising prices. Kenya’s food insecurity has impacted approximately 4 million people.

Blogger “linlilinnptoe” outlines staples of the Kenyan diet that are now threatened.

“Bunge la Mwananchi,” a Kenyan grassroots organization, writes on their Web site about the connection between government corruption and high food prices, demanding that the government ensure sufficient food for all Kenyans.

Responding to an article in The Standard, the “Africa Expat Wives Club” blog claims that the cycle of poverty in Kenya is due to a culture of handouts.

The World Bank’s “Africa Can…” blog details the effect of the recent financial downturn on the African economy and predicts continuing struggles.

Finally, a blogger at “Novakeo” discusses the origins of the food crisis and argues that world leaders should rethink the current mechanism for world development.

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October 6, 2008
Into the Czech woods for the mushroom hunt

In the Czech Republic, mushroom hunting is a long-standing cultural pastime. David Marash documents the autumnal tradition of plucking fungi from the forest.


But the Czech people aren’t the only mushroom enthusiasts — Italians also forage for fungi. At the “Italian Blog,” Serena describes the Italian version of the tradition and suggests recipes.

At the blog “Micah Moves,” an American living in Russia joins a local family for a mushroom outing.

The “Stone Spoon Blog” describes a hunt in the Canadian woods where the author chronicles the different types of mushrooms that he encounters.

Flickr user AnjaLouise dedicates a photo set to different types of wild mushrooms.

The Cornell University Mushroom Blog provides all the scientific information necessary to grow, care for and study mushrooms.

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October 6, 2008
Bloggers recount independence day festivities

Dancers celebrate the national day of the Republic of China.

Citizens at a celebration in Berlin for German unification.

Over the last week, countries around the world celebrated independence and national pride days. Bloggers in these countries posted their experiences.

Lesotho celebrated its independence day on Saturday, Oct. 4. John, a doctoral candidate in Lesotho, writes that the day was relatively quiet compared to July 4 in the U.S.

Germany celebrated Unification Day on Oct. 3, commemorating the country’s 1990 reunification. A resident in eastern Germany writes of continuing tension, but is confident that the country will overcome lingering bitterness.

Guinea celebrated its independence day on Oct. 2. The “Fed in Guinea” blog writes about being woken up by the sounds of drums, part of the dancing and festivities to come.

The small island nation of Tuvalu celebrated its independence on Oct. 1. Paul Lyon’s provides a history of the day with an entry at “The Diary Junction Blog.” He also writes about “Treasure Island” author Robert Louis Stevenson’s visit to the island.

Nigeria celebrated the anniversary of its independence on the same day, and the “Nigerian Adventure” blog writes about the country’s celebration of varying tribes and cultural heritage.

Cyprus celebrated its independence on Oct. 1, although the “Glowing in the Dark” blog writes “how a country can be independent when there are no less than three foreign armies on its soil is hard to understand.”

China celebrated National Day on Oct. 1. “The Littlest Things” blog posts images from the day and some fun facts. Watch a video of Chinese fireworks here.

Botswana celebrated 42 years of independence from Britain on Sept. 30. Bloggers and Peace Corps volunteers Richard and Stacy post a description of the celebrations, including dancing and bonfires.

Croatia and Uganda will both celebrate their independence later this week, on Oct. 8 and 9, respectively.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user SUN Eric under a Creative Commons license.

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October 2, 2008
Timeline: Power shifts in Iraq over the past five years


AUDIO: Scott Peterson, a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, reports from Baghdad on uncertain future for the Sons of Iraq.

Today in Iraq, two suicide bombings killed at least 24 people in Baghdad mosques, marking the end of the Ramadan holy month.

Yesterday, the U.S. military transferred responsibility for the “Sons of Iraq” or the “Awakening Councils” to the Shia-led Iraqi government. The U.S.-backed paramilitary force is a group of 100,000 Sunnis credited with taming violence in Iraq.

The question remains whether the Awakening Councils will be able to integrate into the Shia-led Iraqi government.

Over the last five years, the Iraqi government has endured significant governmental changes. Below is a timeline of the major power transfers within Iraq.


March 19 – U.S. President Bush declares war against Iraq. Days later, the U.S. gains control of Baghdad.

May 24 – U.S. administrator Paul Bremer abolishes the Baath Party and other institutions of Saddam Hussein’s former regime.


March 8 – The government council signs an interim constitution.

June 28 – After the government council is dissolved on June 1, the U.S. transfers power to an interim government led by Iyad Allawi.


January 30 – About 8 million Iraqis vote for the National Assembly (the interim parliament). The Shia United Iraqi Alliance wins a majority and many Sunnis boycott the election.

April 6 – Iraq’s parliament names Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani the president of the transitional government and Shia politician Ibrahim Jaafari is later named prime minister.

October 25 – Iraqis approve a new constitution.

December 15 – Iraqis hold the first full-term parliamentary election since the invasion.


March 16 – The new parliament convenes.

April 22 – After Jalal Talabani is reelected president by the parliament, he asks Nouri al-Maliki to form a government as Iraq’s permanent prime minister, following outgoing transitional leader Ibrahim Jaafari.

December 30 – Saddam Hussein is executed by hanging.


August 12 – Sunni members of the main Iraqi Accordance Front bloc withdraw from the cabinet due to disagreements with Prime Minister Maliki’s power arrangement. Kurdish and Shia leaders ally to support his government.

December 17 – Britain hands over its remaining controlled territory, the southern Basra province, to the Iraqi government.


January 12 – Parliament passes legislation to allow former Baath party members to return to government jobs and public life.

July 19 – The main Sunni Arab bloc rejoins the Shia-led government.

September 1 – U.S. forces hand control of the Sunni province of Anbar to the Shia-led Iraqi government.

September 24 – Iraq passes laws that enable provincial elections next year.

October 1 – The U.S. turns over control of the Awakening Councils to the Iraqi government.

Source: BBC, The New York TimesReuters

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October 1, 2008
India bans smoking in public places

A man smokes a cigarette in rural India, near Calcutta.

The world’s largest smoking ban goes into effect tomorrow, preventing 1.2 billion Indian citizens from smoking in offices, bars and all public places. Recent studies showed that up to 40 percent of deaths in India are smoking-related.

Nita J. Kulkarni, a freelance journalist in India, defends the ban on her blog, citing heavy secondhand smoke and claiming rights for non-smokers.

Blogger “Ashish” from Bangalore also supports the ban, hoping it will help him to quit smoking.

Blogger “Madhu” argues against the ban, writing that unlike countries whose bans are to reduce health costs or other burdens, India’s government does not pay for welfare or health care and thus cannot justify its infringement on personal responsibility.

The “DNA India” Web site posts a slide show of Indian citizens stating their varying opinions on the ban.

India is one of many countries currently debating smoking bans. Yesterday, a Swiss court struck down a smoking ban in Geneva, while the United Kingdom is now assessing the economic consequences of a ban that the country imposed a year ago.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Matthieu under a Creative Commons license.

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September 30, 2008
Ecuador overhauls constitution

President Rafael Correa has more power following the approval of a new constitution.

Voters in Ecuador overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in a referendum on Sunday, giving increased power to President Rafael Correa and ushering in other measures to expand homosexual rights and preserve nature.

The “Alterdestiny” blog views the results as a sign that people are tired of instability in the country.

“Open Democracy” suggests that the new consitution might enable Ecuador, which has had seven presidents in the last decade, to look to the future and lists challenges facing the country.

The “Ecuanews” blog discusses the campaign against the constitution and assesses why it failed.

“Roger Hollander” also describes the massive campaign against the constitution and praises its passage as a victory of humanity over capitalism.

Blogger “Elizabeth Tims” posts images from voting day and writes about how the constitutional changes will affect abortion rights and the Catholic Church in Ecuador.

“Ecuador Living,” a blog written by American expatriates, lists pros and cons of Correa’s government and the new constitution.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Que Comunismo under a Creative Commons license.

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September 30, 2008
Modern-day pirate attacks threaten the high seas


AUDIO: Rob Crilly, an independent journalist and a Worldfocus contributing blogger, discusses the situation in Somalia.

CLICK on the image above for a complete interactive map from ICC Commercial Crime Services.

U.S. warships surrounded a pirate ship off the coast of Somalia — a pirate attack hotspot.

With piracy costing the maritime industry over $16 billion each year, efforts to combat pirates have increased.

However, the “Hunt of the Sea Wolves” blog points out that piracy extends far beyond these African hotspots – including recent attacks in Tanzania and India.

The Bali Times reports on the piracy problem in Indonesia, which is second only to Nigeria in number of attacks.

The Global Terrorism Analysis journal examines naval terrorism off the Iraqi and Sri Lankan shores by al-Qaeda and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The “Shipsworld” blog argues that unlike Somalia, India and Brazil have the resources to eliminate piracy.

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Blogwatch summarizes what bloggers and news sources are saying about the international news of the day. We’ll link to informative and bold voices that place the headlines in the context of the global conversation.

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