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Thursday, December 12, 2013

North Korean Leader Executed

According to the North Korean state news agency KCNA, Jang Song-Thaek, uncle of DPKR’s leader Kim Jong-Un, has been executed as a “traitor for all ages.” A speedy military trial concluded yesterday, convicting Jang of committing such a “hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state”. The execution comes just days after Jang was stripped of his role in the Jurche government, and physically ejected from a politburo meeting.

Peña Nieto Moves to Liberalize Oil

In what may prove to be the nation’s most significant economic maneuver since the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico’s legislature has passed a constitutional amendment backed by President Enrique Peña Nieto allowing foreign companies to once again exploit Mexican oil. The amendment must be ratified by a simple majority of Mexico’s states to become law, not a significant obstacle given Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) controls more than half of the Mexican states.

Such neoliberal policies are not uncontentious in Mexico, neither among oil workers like platform welder José Luis Gutiérrez, who believes the new amendment will mean, “The rich will get richer,” nor among leftist legislators, at least one of which compared Peña Nieto to the 19th-century President Antonio López de Santa Anna, who sold off parts of Mexico to the U.S. and ceded Texas after being captured in battle. Another legislator, Antonio Garcia, stripped down to a pair underwear dyed black during a speech before the lower house, saying, “This is the way you are stripping the country to the bone.”

Catalonia Moves Toward Independence, Spain Protests

As separatist parties from Catalonian region of Spain met yesterday to decide the wording of an independence referendum proposed for late next fall, the Spanish government in Madrid reacted apoplectically. Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said flatly, “The poll will not be held.” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy agreed saying, “As prime minister I have sworn to uphold the constitution and the law and, because of this, I guarantee that this referendum will not happen.” Rajoy added, “Any discussion or debate on this is out of the question.”

Catalonia has maintained a distinct identity from Spain, despite years of repression before and during the fascist regime of Francisco Franco. The region makes up roughly 15 percent of the Spanish economy. Recent poll suggest that those living in Catalonia are evenly divided on the idea of independence. After last night’s meeting, Catalonian President Artur Mas said the vote would ask two questions: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” and: “Do you want that state to be independent?”

Ozone Hole May Close

More than two decades after the enactment of the Montreal Protocol, NASA announced the hole in the ozone layer is stabilizing. Yet despite the banning of ozone depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons, the hole in the ozone layer will not be repaired until at least 2070, as levels of atmospheric chlorine have not dropped enough to begin to have a shrinking effect on the ozone hole that forms each year over Antarctic. In fact, according to Anne Douglass, a scientist with the Aura project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, we may not begin to see significant effects of the Montreal Protocol until 2025. Still, Susan Strahan, a senior research scientist at NASA seems optimistic, saying “There will be some bumps in the road, but overall the trend is downward.”

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