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Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, dead at 87

Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of the U.K., died today after a stroke at the age of 87. She had been suffering dementia and was in poor health for months. Thatcher was instrumental in forging the conservative sea change in Western governance during the late 1970′s and 80′s; her legacy is felt even today. She led U.K. in its successful war against Argentina in 1982, and, alongside her lifelong friend and ally Ronald Reagan, navigated NATO through the last years of the Cold War. She will be given a ceremonial funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London with military honors. The controversial leader was extensively eulogized in the british press.

North Korea Withdraws From Kaesong

The North Korea government announced today that it is withdrawing its entire workforce from the Kaesŏng Industrial Region. Over 53,000 North Koreas work in the region, alongside at least 800 South Koreans. The joint venture between the Korean governments houses 123 companies and is an important source of hard currency for the North Korean economy. Still, this isn’t the first time the North Korean government has questioned its commitment to the project. Kim Yang-gon, a secretary of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, said they “will temporarily suspend the operations in the zone and examine the issue of whether it will allow its existence or close it.” The Administration of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who was elected based on her promises to respond vigorously and affirmatively to North Korean aggression, said today that while they regret the North Korean move, “North Korea will be held responsible for all the consequences. We will calmly but firmly handle North Korea’s indiscreet action, and we will do our best to secure the safety of our people and the protection of our property.” There are still at least 470 South Koreans in Kaesŏng.

EU Criticized on International Romani Day

Today marks the 23rd annual International Romani Day to celebrate Romani culture and raise awareness of the issues facing Romani people. Amnesty International issued a statement criticizing the members of the European Union (EU) for their failure to end discrimination against Roma. Romani around the EU and the world have faced evictions, second class citizenship, and worse. Of the six million Roma living in Europe, eight out of ten are at risk of poverty and only one in seven young adults have completed secondary education. More than a hundreds violent attacks against Roma and their property have occurred in Eastern Europe over the past few years, with little investigation into the crimes on the part to the authorities. According to John Dalhuisen, a Director at Amnesty International, “the European Commission has the powers to make a lasting impact on the lives of marginalized and discriminated communities in Europe, including the Roma. Regrettably, it has so far been hesitant to act against states which have violated the human rights of Roma.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry marked his government’s support for Roma saying, “the United States reaffirms its determination to meet this challenge, together with European governments to achieve equality, opportunity, and inclusion for all Roma.” Kerry also acknowledges a growing problem: “In recent years, the global economic crisis slowed progress to address these challenges and led to growing anti-Roma rhetoric and, even more alarming, violence.”

Neruda Exhumed

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was exhumed today as part of an investigation into the cause of his death in 1973. Neruda, an ardent Marxist, died after a long bout with cancer just 12 days after his friend Salvador Allende was ousted in a coup from the Chilean presidency by Augusto Pinochet. The official cause of death was emotional distress and complications from prostate cancer. But in 2011, a judge ordered further investigation of the matter after Neruda’s bodyguard and driver, Manuel Araya, claimed doctors had poisoned the poet. Araya suggests Pinochet ordered Neruda’s assassination, but the Pablo Neruda Foundation disagrees: “It doesn’t seem reasonable to build a new version of the death of the poet based only on the opinions of his driver.”

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