World & Nation

IRA Disarms, Ends 80-year Fight

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced in July that it would end its armed resistance to British rule in the six counties of Northern Ireland, concluding a conflict that started almost 80 years ago and brought about intense violence in the last three decades.

Both Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the completion of decommissioning as a major step toward the creation of a peaceful Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland politicians regarded the disarmament with skepticism. Protestant leader Ian Paisley called attention to the lack of transparent verification and photographic evidence; while former IRA member and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams views the disarmament as a “very brave and bold leap”, he called attention to other outstanding issues in the reconciliation process, such as equality and human rights.

IMF To Cancel $55 Billion Debt

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) officially backed a deal to cancel $55 billion of debt due from the poorest countries of the world.

As a result of the agreement, the 18 poorest countries of the world, including Ghana, Ethiopia, Honduras and Bolivia, will be relieved from 100 percent of their external debt. The move will be covered by the contributions of the eight richest countries of the world. The ultimate economic goal of the IMF is to cut the number of people living in poverty in half by 2015.

DeLay Faces Criminal Charges, Steps Down

Representative Thomas DeLay (R-TX) announced his resignation as Majority Leader on Wednesday. DeLay is facing charges of criminal conspiracy by a grand jury in Texas.

Indicted with him were two of his associates; they stand accused of money laundering and unlawful acceptance of contributions.

DeLay maintains he is innocent and describes his prosecutor, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, as a “partisan zealot” and a “fanatic”. Earle countered that 12 out of 15 corruption cases tried in Texas were against Democrats.

The investigators charged DeLay with possible illegal fundraising and use of corporate funds by a political action group led by him. If convicted, DeLay might face a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of $10,000. This is not the first time DeLay has come under suspicion; he was admonished by the House ethics committee three times in 2004, and was asked to “temper” his future actions to comply with House rules and standards.

House Republicans elected Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri as their new leader. Blunt declared that, despite the charges, DeLay will remain an influential member of the party.

Wildfire in LA Burns 20,000 Acres

Hundreds of people were evacuated from Los Angeles County to shelters in Los Angeles and Ventura County as wind-driven wildfires approached residential areas and consumed at least one home.

By Thursday, more than 1,000 firefighters were on the scene attempting to control the flames with helicopters and tanker planes dropping water from above.

The weather, however, made the task difficult as dry plants, humidity, heat and steady winds characterize the area conditions. The cause of the fire is still undetermined. There is also a chance that the fire may spread to the celebrity-filled town of Malibu, as has happened in past years.

This year so far 8.16 million acres of woods have been destroyed by wildfires in the U.S., five percent more than in 2004.

Roberts Confirmed as Supreme Court Justice

After a confirmation process characterized by rare bipartisan cooperation, the Senate voted Thursday to approve John G. Roberts, Jr. to replace William Rehnquist as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

The final vote was 78 for his confirmation and 22 against, with unanimous Republican support and half the Democratic senators consenting.

“With the confirmation of John Roberts, the Supreme Court will embark upon a new era in its history – the Roberts era,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said before the vote. “For many years to come, long after many of us have left public service, the Roberts court will be deliberating on some of the most difficult and fundamental questions of U.S. law.”

Those questions include critical decisions over abortion, civil rights and gay marriage that are likely to be prominent in the court’s next term.

President George W. Bush praised Roberts in a ceremony at the White House following the confirmation vote.

“The nomination power is one of the most serious responsibilities of a president,” Bush said. “When a president chooses a Supreme Court justice, he is placing in human hands the full authority and majesty of the law.”

Roberts was originally selected to fill the position vacated by Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, but was nominated to the Supreme Court’s highest position after Rehnquist’s unexpected death. Bush is widely expected to select a minority or a Hispanic candidate to fill O’Connor’s vacancy in the coming days.

Congress Pushes for Greater Sanctions on Zimbabwe

The United States’ impatience with Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, has been growing steadily. Since this summer, when President Robert Mugabe ordered the demolition of homes of supporters of the opposition party ono account of their alleged status of “substandard,” Zimbabwe’s popularity in the West has begun to wane. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has backed a plan to add children of high-ranking officials in the ZANU-PF to a list of sanctioned people. Like their parents, the children of the party members will not be able to travel anywhere in the European Union (E.U.) or the U.S., and virtually all of their assets outside the country will be frozen. Neighboring South Africa and Zambia have been reluctant to join the U.S. and E.U. in their continual plans for sanctions, for Zimbabwe plays a vital role in the trade of the region.

President Bashir Swears in New Cabinet for Sudan

President Omar al-Bashir swore in the new coalition government of Sudan. The violence following the death of former rebel leader of the SPLM/A, John Garang, has finally subsided and the country is ready to start the unity government for which he has fought so hard. Under Kofi Annan and the U.N.’s watchful eye, the appointments went peacefully as Bashir swore in the members to fill the 29 available ministries. Of those, 16 are part of his ruling party, the National Congress Party, while nine are from the former rebel SPLM/A and four represent other minority parties. Annan believes that this is a vital step to a lasting peace in the war-torn country, and that this new coalition government’s first task should be to tackle the problems of the troubled Darfur region in western Sudan.