World

World Notes

November 15 1999
World

World Notes

November 15 1999

World Notes

World

Cyclone hits India

More than seven million people were left homeless after a devastating cyclone swept through the eastern Indian state of Orissa. Authorities estimated the death toll would reach several thousand. Millions are threatened with starvation and disease despite a massive relief effort which the government said would cost $70 million.

Life for gay-killer

A 22-year-old Wyoming roofer, convicted of beating a gay man and leaving him to die, escaped the death penalty after the victim’s parents asked for mercy. Under a plea bargain, Aaron McKinney will instead serve two life sentences for the kidnapping and murder of Matthew Shepard, 21, a college student who was brutally pistol-whipped by McKinney and tied to a fence outside the town of Laramie, Wyo., last year.

The end of privilege

Only 92 of Britain’s 759 hereditary peers will now be permitted to sit in the House of Lords. As part of sweeping reforms of the upper chamber announced by the Labour government of Tony Blair, 90 were elected by their peers in a transitional compromise. Two others will stay on by virtue of the offices they hold.

Looted art returned

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has returned to the Hungarian government a small 16th-century Italian painting that went missing from Budapest during the Second World War. The museum purchased The Marriage Feast at Cana by Giorgio Vasari, now worth about $900,000, from the daughter of a Hungarian collector in 1962.

China targets sect

Stepping up its campaign against the adherents of a spiritual movement called Falun Gong, the Chinese Communist party laid criminal charges against the group’s leaders. Followers, who practise a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and meditation, say the group is not a cult and poses no threat to the Chinese government.

Ten years later, recycling the Wall

As the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s collapse approached—the borders between East and West Germany were opened on Nov. 9,1989—a worker pries a reinforcing iron bar from a chunk of the Wall’s concrete for recycling. Little of the Wall remains, but German officials say there is still a broad gap between the country’s east and west, both in living conditions and in outlook.

Australians vote to keep the Queen

After a hard-fought campaign, Australian voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to get rid of the Queen and install an appointed president as the head of state of a republic. To pass, the referendum needed an overall majority and majorities in four of the six states. Instead, it was easily defeated in five states, with 55 per cent of the population voting against it. “Let this result be celebrated by all Australians as a victory for our democracy,” declared Kerry Jones, the monarchist leader.

The proposal called for replacing the

Queen with a president who would be nominated by the prime minister and confirmed by a two-thirds vote of parliament. The prime minister could also fire the president, subject to approval by parliament. But many Australians objected to the idea of an unelected president. The monarchist camp struck a shrewd alliance with a republican group known as the “direct electionists,” who campaigned for a No vote over the issue of appointing a president. Supporters of the Queen conceded that the monarchy itself is not popular in Australia, and focused instead on constitutional crises that could arise under the referendum model.

Once again, America the violent

Workplace shootings in Honolulu and Seattle left many Americans wondering if there are any safe places left. A 15-year Xerox Corp. employee allegedly gunned down seven co-workers at a company warehouse in Honolulu. Copier repairman Bryan Uyesugi, 40, was arrested the same day and charged with first-degree murder. The next day, a man wearing camouflage gear walked into a boat-repair shop in a middle-class Seattle neighbourhood and shot four people, killing two. At week’s end, police were still searching for the gunman.