World Watch

6 minute read

Sowing the Seeds of Farm Reform

The european commission approved a plan to overhaul the E.U.’s subsidy-addicted farming system. Tough talks lie ahead to get all of the Union’s 15 member states to agree to the scheme, but countries applying to join the E.U. have welcomed it. The E.U.’s agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler is trying to de-link direct subsidies and production. The Common Agricultural Policy has encouraged farmers to overproduce in the knowledge that the E.U. will buy their crops. This has raised prices for consumers — and created mountains of excess products. Under the new system, payments will be more closely linked to environmental and quality standards, and will be gradually lowered by 20%, with the money saved to be used for rural devel

Going to Pot

The U.K. government lessened the penalties for being caught using marijuana as part of the biggest shake-up of drug laws in 30 years. Under new rules, police will have greater discretionary powers to issue a warning — rather than to arrest — those caught with small amounts of marijuana. The police will, however, still have powers of arrest where the possession of the drug is thought to be a “danger to public order” or the well-being of children. And dealers will face a maximum prison term of 14 years. The Conservative opposition criticized the announcement, accusing the government of sending mixed messages on drugs.

Political Crisis

The failing health of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, 77, led to political turmoil. Ecevit’s refusal to stand down or call early elections prompted seven cabinet ministers and around 43 deputies to resign from the governing Democratic Left Party. Former Foreign Minister Ismail Cem announced the formation of a new party with Kemal Dervis, the Economy Minister. Dervis, however, did not confirm this. He submitted his resignation from the government, but President Ahmet Necdet Sezer persuaded him to withdraw his letter.

Oldest Humanoid

A French-led research team announced the discovery of the oldest human-like fossil. The skull is from a creature (nicknamed Touma) that lived 6 to 7 million years ago — 3 million years older than any other known humanoid fossil. The Mission Paloanthropologique Franco-Tchadienne found only a cranium and lower jaw, so it’s not known whether Touma walked upright — or how the discovery fits into the pattern of human evolution.

More Perfect Union

African leaders launched the African Union, which they hope will assist in averting war, reducing poverty and strengthening the continent’s new democracies. The successor to the failed Organization of African Unity is based on the European Union. Like its model, the A.U. plans institutions such as a pan-African parliament, a court of justice, a bank and even a single currency at some point in the future.

School’s Out

Israeli police officers seized documents and computers from al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, before shutting it down. The Israeli government gave security as the grounds for the move. Both Israeli and Palestinian peace activists protested the decision, suggesting it was a way to silence Sari Nusseibeh, the university’s popular president. Nusseibeh is a philosopher and peace negotiator who has criticized suicide bombings.

Ayatullah Resigns

A senior religious figure resigned his post and issued a condemnation of the way the country is being run. Ayatullah Jalaluddin Taheri had held the post of the leader of Friday prayers in the city of Isfahan for 30 years. Taheri’s resignation came as a shock to the clerical establishment that has controlled state power since the Islamic Revolution, in which he played a significant role. In his resignation statement, Taheri portrayed Iran’s establishment as deeply
corrupt, self-serving, hypocritical and repressive. Iran’s highest-ranking security body ordered a gag on press coverage of the resignation, citing the need to preserve calm and protect national security.


Soldiers shot dead six men and one woman, fighters from the Free Aceh Movement. Clashes in the province of Aceh, in northwestern Sumatra, also claimed the lives of three civilians in a grenade blast, as well as three more rebels. Indonesia’s Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the province to decide whether to impose harsher measures to end the 26-year insurgency. A U.S. official in the Indonesian capital Jakarta warned that the spiraling violence in Aceh could harm attempts to restore full military ties between the two nations.


Two men were shot and then hacked to pieces in continuing violence surrounding the country’s elections. Rival tribes went on a rampage in the town of Tari in the Southern Highlands stealing as many as 55 ballot boxes containing up to 50,000 votes, according to officials. Troops were flown in but failed to make an impression on the level of unrest in the remote area. The poll has become so chaotic that the country’s newspapers called for fresh voting, but the Election Commission has continued with the count.

War Shrine

South Koreans angry over the visit by Junichiro Koizumi, Japan’s Prime Minister, to a Tokyo shrine containing the remains of war criminals have joined legal proceedings against him. About 800 people, mostly South Koreans, signed on to one of three law-suits that are pending against Koizumi. The suits claim that his visit to the Shinto Yasukuni shrine, which commemorates 2,460,000 Japanese war dead, contravenes the constitutional separation of church and state. Though Koizumi’s two visits have annoyed Seoul and Beijing, the three lawsuits (originally filed by about 900 people in November) are unlikely to get the official backing of either government.opment measures. Aid to individual farmers will be capped at $300,000.

Caught on Tape

Jeremy Morse, a white policeman, was filmed beating Donovan Jackson, a black teenager, at a gas station in Inglewood, California. Jackson, 16, filed a civil-rights suit against four police officers, including Morse, and the city of Inglewood. The U.S. Justice Department opened a civil-rights investigation into the incident. Mitchell Crooks, who was staying in a motel across from the gas station, caught the beating on video. In a separate incident, two white officers in Oklahoma were videotaped beating Donald Pete, a black man, across his back and legs as he lay on the ground.

The Wrath of Typhoon Chata’an

A tropical storm lashed northern Japan, killing five people and leaving three missing. The deadly weather system had already claimed dozens of lives in the Philippines and Micronesia. Japanese authorities ordered more than 75,000 people to leave their homes north of Tokyo because of high winds, heavy rain, flooding and landslides. Officials said the storm caused 569 landslides in central and northern Japan, while floods destroyed at least 16 buildings and 10 bridges. Flights were also disrupted

A Bum Seer?

In further proof of the untapped potential of the human mind, a blind German psychic says that he can read people’s
futures by feeling their naked buttocks. Ulf Buck, 39, from Meldorf, near Hamburg, said backsides have lines on them that can be read just like the lines on the palm of a hand.

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