Early on Aug. 2, unidentified individuals broke into and used homemade explosives to set fire to the Quebracho Poty community radio station at the San Ramon Nonato parish in Puerto Casado, Paraguay. No one was hurt, but the attack left virtually the entire station destroyed. Some people believe the attack may have been carried out by employees of the Victoria company, owned by the World Unification Church of Korean businessperson Sun Myung Moon.
The Indonesian government and the rebel Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed a peace deal in Finland Aug. 15 aimed at ending the local war which has claimed 15,000 lives in over 29 years. "This is the beginning of a new era for Aceh," said former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who mediated the talks. "Much hard work lies ahead." Efforts to end the conflict quickened after the tsunami in December, which devastated much of Aceh. In the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, big screens were set up in the main mosque so that people could witness the signing in Helsinki.
The UK is moving swiftly to implement its pledged expulsion of "preachers of hate," launching early-morning raids Aug. 11 to round up 10 Muslim militants. The 10 face deportation to their countries of origin under new anti-terrorism measures outlined by Prime Minister Tony Blair last week. Among those detained is Abu Qatada, a cleric often described as al-Qaeda's "spiritual ambassador" in Europe. Britain seeks to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan, where he has been tried in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with various alleged terrorist plots. Britain assures that it has secured an agreement from Jordan's government guaranteeing that deportees will not be tortured or executed. Blair said his government is seeking similar agreements with other Middle East nations.
An Aug. 11 story from NewScientist.com notes recent findings by scientists that the world's largest frozen peat bog is melting. An area stretching for a million square kilometres across the permafrost of western Siberia is turning into a mass of shallow lakes as the ground melts, according to Russian researchers just back from the region. The sudden melting of a bog the size of France and Germany combined could unleash billions of tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
The US government is seeking dismissal of a case brought by a "rendition" victim who says he was tortured in Syria, citing rarely used "state secret privilege." US officials argued Aug. 9 in a Brooklyn court that the case should be dismissed because it would "force the government to reveal classified information" about the plaintiff's alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Maher Arar, a Canadian software engineer who also holds Syrian citizenship, was detained when he was changing flights at New York's JFK Airport to return to Ottawa from Damascus in September 2002. He was sent to Syria, where he says he was tortured for 10 months. Thanks largely to the efforts of his wife in Canada, he was eventually released by the Syrian government, which claims it did not torture him. Arar denies any terror links and was never charged with a crime. He now charges the US government with violating the Torture Victim Protection Act and his Fifth Amendment right to due process.
The African Union (AU) Aug. 9 reversed its position on the coup in Mauritania, giving a tacit conditional support to the new military junta. The move came after Nigeria's foreign affairs minister, Ambassador Olu Adeniji, led a delegation of four AU ministers landed in the Northern African State. Adeniji said the delegation had meetings with all the stakeholders in that country, from the leader of the military council, to labor unions and human rights groups—and found they all supported the coup. "The amazing thing is that there was no single dissenting view," he said.
At Unocal's final shareholder's meeting Aug. 10, an overwhelming majority approved the $17.5 billion merger with Chevron. Chief Executive Charles Williamson said Unocal considered a sale only after being approached months ago by China National Offshore Oil -- known as CNOOC -- which wanted to buy the California-based oil company. Unocal then solicited offers from other outfits, ultimately choosing Chevron on April 4.
A Nuevo Laredo police officer was killed and the ex-officer she was driving with injured in an attack by unknown gunmen Aug. 10—just two days after the US consulate in Nuevo Laredo re-opened—having closed its doors for a week in protest of ongoing violence in the Mexican border town. Adriana de Leon was the 15th law-enforcement officer to be killed among 110 slayings in Nuevo Laredo so far this year. A city council member was also among the recent vicitims. The town remains occupied by 1,200 federal agents, and a midnight curfew is in effect. The new violence also comes as the city government is offering to bring in tourists from San Antonio for free to convince them the city is safe. (Houston Chronicle, Aug. 11)