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Monday, October 8, 2012

Hugo Chávez Wins Re-Election

Venezuelan voters have returned Hugo Chávez to the presidency. Chávez won his third re-election by a large margin yesterday, beating Henrique Capriles by more than one million votes. “Today we’ve shown that Venezuela’s democracy is one of the best democracies in the world, and we will continue to show it”, said Chávez. The administration has enjoyed wide support from the country’s poor and middle class for its anti-neoliberal economic policies, land reform laws, and social welfare programs. During his 14 year rule, Chávez has seen significant opposition as well: a myriad of strikes, a coup de-etat, and increasingly loud charges of autocratic behavior.

Saudi Weapons in Syria

Weapons crates marked as belonging to Royal Saudi Arabian Land Forces were found in Aleppo, Syria in the possession of anti-government rebels. Dastan, the Ukrainian seller of the weapons, specializes in naval and amphibious weaponry but also makes land mines, radio scrambling devices and rocket-propelled grenades. The Saudi government has not commented on why Saudi weapons might be in the hands of Syrian rebels, but this discovery might lend credence to claims from the Syrian government that Saudi Arabia is covertly arming rebel forces. In late July, Saudi King Abdullah denounced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and created a fundraising drive, which raised more than $150 million, to help Syrian refugees.

U.S. Government Accuses Two Chinese Companies of Spying

Today the U.S. House Intelligence Committee warned that American companies ought to refrain from doing business with China’s leading technology firms. The committee suggested Huawei Technologies and ZTE, two of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, specifically pose a national security threat to the United States and private companies. The committee issued a report this morning saying, “China has the means, opportunity and motive to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes.” Officials for the Chinese companies denied the accusations in front of a U.S. congressional panel in September. The authors of this report also suggested that the administration block all acquisitions of U.S. companies by ZTE and Huawei.

Peace Between Islamic Rebels and Philippines Government

Filipino President Benigno S. Aquino III has reached a peace settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after more than 15 years of negotiation and 160,000 civilian casualties. The MILF is an ethno-religious militia that originally sought an independent Moro nation (Bangsamoro) on Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines. The peace accord may face further challenges before it is fully implemented in 2016; the Philippine court system has blocked similar settlements in the past. Additionally there are militant groups on Mindanao, such as the al-Qeada affiliate, Abu Sayyaf, and the Indonesiean group, Jemmah Islamiyah, that may protest the agreement in hopes of including the island in an Islamic empire.

The Islamic insurgency in the Philippines began in 1969 when the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was established in reaction to the Jabidah massacre, which saw 60 to 180 Muslim members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines killed by their commanders. After former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi brokered a peace treaty between the MNLF and the Filipino government in 1976 and a further reaching accord in 1996, MILF —seeking an independent Moro nation rather than an autonomous substate— broke with MNLF and continued their armed struggle.

SpaceX Launches Falcon 9

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launched a cargo ship towards the International Space Station (ISS) last night. The unmanned Falcon rocket bore a Dragon capsule containing 1,000 pounds of needed supplies into space; it is expected to make contact with the space station on Wednesday. On the ascent, one engine experienced trouble, but onboard flight computers dealt with the issue, recomputing a new ascent profile in real time to ensure the capsule’s entry into orbit. The Dragon capsule is uniquely designed to return to Earth intact and will do so with more than 2,000 pounds of precious cargo. NASA has been unable to resupply ISS since it retired the aging Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2011. The U.S. must still rely upon Russian Soyuz ships to transport its astronauts into space.

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