The world this week
Dec 29th 2010
From The Economist print edition
America’s Congress voted to allow gay members of the armed forces to serve openly by repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”, a policy under which thousands of homosexual men and women have been discharged. It had looked as if the measure might not pass, but eight Republican senators eventually backed it. Barack Obama quickly signed the act into law, though it does not take immediate effect.
Also before Christmas, Congress agreed to Mr Obama’s deal with Republicans that extends the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy in return for more stimulus spending. The Senate ratified a (much-delayed) nuclear-arms treaty with Russia. Legislation that would have put the children of illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship, the DREAM bill, failed to pass, and is unlikely to be reconsidered in the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives. See article
The first tranche of statistics to be released from America’s census showed the population stood at 308.7m on April 1st 2010, a rise of 9.7% from 2000. Texas gained more people than any other state, up by 4.3m to 25.1m, fetching it four more congressional seats in the House. See article
Opponents of Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chávez, accused him of launching a coup against other branches of government, after the outgoing national assembly approved measures to allow him to rule by decree for 18 months, to tighten government control over universities, NGOs and the media, and to appoint new supreme-court justices. The measures came days before a new legislature with a large opposition minority is due to be sworn in. See article
In Argentina Jorge Videla, a former military dictator, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of political prisoners following a coup in 1976. His trial came after an amnesty was set aside. Mr Videla complained that former
leaders of the left-wing guerrillas whom the army fought are now in the government.
Bolivia’s government increased the price of petrol and other fuel by more than 70%, prompting a strike by bus and lorry operators. The government said that the cost of subsidising fuel had risen from $80m in 2005, to $380m, and that cheap fuel was being smuggled to neighbouring countries.
Pressure mounted on Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire to admit defeat in an election run-off held in late November and cede the presidency to his rival, Alassane Ouattara. At least 170 people have been killed in the election’s aftermath. The presidents of three west African countries (Benin, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone) flew to Abidjan, the Ivorian commercial capital, in a vain effort to persuade him to step down – or be removed by force.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague asked it to summon six prominent Kenyans to face charges of inciting violence after the disputed election of 2007, when at least 1,200 people were killed. The six include Uhuru Kenyatta, the finance minister who is a son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s founding president, and William Ruto, a leader of the powerful Kalenjin tribal group. See article
South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise call for a resumption of denuclearisation talks with North Korea. The North has so far refrained from any armed response to the South’s latest military exercises. See article