World Notes

September 18 2000

World Notes

September 18 2000

World Notes

A bodyguard’s new job

Trevor Rees-Jones, the only survivor of the car crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, has taken a one-year peacekeeping post with the United Nations in Suai, East Timor. The 32-year-old former paratrooper, who worked as a bodyguard for the Fayed family, still has no memory of the horrific event that also killed Dodi Al Fayed and driver Henri Paul.

Church versus church

Religious communities around the globe reacted with hostility to a Vatican document stating that Catholicism is the only true Christian faith and that non-Christians were in a “gravely deficient situation.” The report threw into question the considerable gains Pope John Paul II has made in inter-religious dialogue during his 22-year papacy.

Fuelling a protest

Frances trucking unions launched a six-day protest against high taxes on diesel fuel, blockading refineries and fuel depots across the country. The protest, which led to panic buying, fuel rationing and dry pumps across France, ended when the government responded with significant tax cuts, reported to be as high as 30 per cent.

Hostages set free

Four European hostages were released after being held by Muslim rebels for more than four months in a Philippine jungle. The Abu Sayyaf, who say they are fighting for an Islamic state, kidnapped the four tourists from a Malaysian diving resort in April. Sixteen other hostages are still being held by a separate faction of the same group.

Ozone hole still growing

NASA detected the largest-ever ozone hole over Antarctica. The hole, which reached 28.3 million square kilometres on Sept. 3, is three times larger than the entire landmass of the United States. Scientists believe early spring conditions and the persistence of ozonedestroying gases in the stratosphere caused the enormous hole. NASA has been measuring Antarctic ozone levels since the early 1970s. The first ozone hole was discovered in 1985.

Putin hits the mats

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has a black belt in judo, was floored after a 10-year-old Japanese green belt, Natsumi Gomi, threw him at Tokyo’s Kodokan judo hall. Putin, who was on a three-day visit to Japan, met Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to try to resolve a territorial dispute over four islands off northern Japan that Russia seized in 1945. The talks did not settle the issue.

Gore gaining

For the first time in months during the U.S. presidential race, Democrat AÍ Gore has pulled ahead of Texas governor and Republican candidate George W. Bush. Gore, who for months trailed in the polls, was leading by as much as 10 percentage points— buoyed by support from women. Republican analysts critical of Bush’s campaign believe there have been too many instances in the past month where he seemed defensive, bumbling or peevish. At news conferences he seemed annoyed while he tapped his foot and pursed his lips. Then—in what he thought was a private aside to

his running mate, Dick Cheney—he described a journalist in vulgar terms. But Bush was close to a sensitive microphone, and his remark was broadcast around the world.

During the same period, Gore declared himself the candidate of the little guy and portrayed Bush and Cheney as beholden to big oil and drug companies. Gore also released a 191-page economic and social plan that would give Americans almost three times more money for education and Medicare than Bush’s budget proposal. With only two months to go, it might be the tightest presidential contest since Democrat Bill Clinton beat Republican George Bush in 1992.

More rough roads ahead for Firestone

The U.S. justice department is reviewing whether any criminal or civil laws apply to the case of defective Firestone tires. Attorney General Janet Reno made the announcement after Congressional hearings failed to determine who at Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. or at Ford Motor Co. knew about the tire failures— linked to 88 deaths and at least 250 injuries in the United States—and when they knew. Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires after U.S. authorities began investigating accidents where tires suddenly lost their tread or suffered blowouts.