October 28, 2011

It was getting harder to focus. Josh had been trying to work on his article for the day but found himself continually looking over at Amy. There was just something about her lately… they’d known each other forever and yet… He wasn’t sure where these feelings were coming from and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do about them, but he was determined to do something about it.


For the third day in a row he was writing about the European Union and the financial situation in Europe. Okay, it wasn’t just a situation, it was a crisis. Things were escalating too – Europe’s bailout fund chief had arrived in Beijing today to hold discussions with potential investors. Europe needed assistance to help ease the debt crisis that is now threatening global economic stability.


The chief executive of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), Klaus Regling, said he expected to meet with the officials of China’s Ministry of Finance and the People’s Bank of China. Josh could only wonder how those meetings would go. Regling said that it was useful to meet with them so soon after the end of the summit of the EU and to let Beijing know what had happened at said summit. He didn’t expect to get an outcome from the talks, and there were no negotiations going on, they were just regular consultations at the early phases of the situation. (CNN)


He didn’t want to say how much the Chinese had invested in the EFSF. He also didn’t say whether China had raised pre-conditions in exchange for extending financial help.


Yesterday, Josh had written about how the European countries reached a deal to tackle the debt crisis with a proposal that would give Greece additional bailout support and other measures aimed to boost market confidence.


The Chinese president Hu Jintao and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy talked by phone about further economic cooperation, but didn’t discuss any plans for bailout. China has expressed its support for Europe amid the crisis, but only promised to help by resuming trade and investments in safe European bonds. Back in September, Josh could remember writing about how there were concerns that the crisis could maybe lead to trade frictions.


China’s economy has also experienced a slump as a result of the economic turmoil in the West, Josh typed into his computer. In September, China’s trade growth slowed as exports increased by their slowest pace in seven months and imports slowed from a month earlier.


“Woah,” Amy exclaimed from across the room. She was watching the big screen television mounted up on the wall, which was on mute so that they could concentrate on their work but still know if anything else happened.


“What’s going on?” Josh asked, looking up from his computer.


“A magnitude 6.9 earthquake just struck southern Peru,” Amy said, looking over at him. “The quake shook buildings in Peru’s capital, the city of Lima. It was centered 50 kilometers south of the coastal city Ica.”


Dan Cross came into the room and looked around. “Princeton, I want you on this story. Stop whatever you were working on and get in contact with whoever you have to over there to get information on this quake.”


“I’m on it,” Adam reached for the phone and dialed a number.


“Canyon, help him out. Finish the Europe article but then focus on the area of Peru. Get geography, weather conditions, population, everything. Tag team on this.”


“Yes Sir,” Josh nodded. He was glad he was almost done his article. It was going to be a long night.


October 27, 2011

The sky was dark and cloudy, making it feel like rain was coming. The forecast showed nothing for the next twenty-four hours though, and Adam wished that the day would just end now. There were a lot of stories today… it was hard to just pick three to be divided between them. They always wrote a clip about all the stories happening, but the top ones were the ones they focused more attention and space on.


Luckily for Adam, though not so lucky for the people in Bangkok, his story was the cover story for today. It was the first of five government-declared holidays in Thailand, but it wasn’t the kind of holiday residents there would hope for. Floodwaters were creeping in slowly but surely toward the city, stressing embankments and making roads, parking lots, factories and markets more suitable for fish than for people. Residents were leaving by the masses so as to avoid the floods that were getting worse every day.


Adam looked out the window, thinking to himself how much perspective was shifted when you worked on a newspaper. Suddenly the threat of rain no longer seemed important. The fact was that he was in a safe building with food, water, and protection from any storm that came their way. It wasn’t even like they got that many storms in southern Ontario, but Adam believed that God would provide no matter what storm life through his way.


In Thailand, it was a different story. The Prime Minister declared that the flood relief center had not done enough and that the public needed to sympathize with emergency staff, as some of them had also become victims of the flooding.


In spite the Don Muang Airport being closed yesterday, the Suvarnabhumi Airport (which was the main airport) was still open. Things were operating normally there, as the airport was protected by 3.5 meters of dikes.


As he scrolled through pictures that his consultant in Thailand had sent him through email, Adam couldn’t believe the devastation. What was normally a busy, active city now seemed like a ghost town other than a few public buses and taxis still able to move along some streets. There was even water standing before the Grand Palace, probably the most-adored of Bangkok’s landmarks.


His cell phone rang and Adam reached for it, putting it to his ear. “Princeton,” he said into the receiver.


“Hey Son, I know you’re busy but I just wanted to make sure you were still coming for dinner tonight.” His mom sounded like she had ulterior motives for calling, and Adam started to worry.


“Yeah, I’m coming. Stacey and I will be there around five o’clock?” He’d been dating Stacey Roston for a couple of years now and was planning on proposing before Christmas, provided he could find a ring in time. It was becoming a world-wide search as he hadn’t found the perfect one yet.


“That sounds fine,” Mom replied. “It will be good to see you again.”


“I’d better finish this article before Dan yells at me for being late,” Adam looked up and saw his boss coming into the room. “I’ll see you tonight, Mom.”


“Love you,” Mom said before he could hang up the phone. Something was definitely up… It would be difficult to put his worries aside and focus on the article at hand.


“Something going on?” Josh looked up from his desk. He was still writing about the financial situation in Europe, where the leaders had finally agreed on a deal to help resolve the debt crisis.


“Yeah, it sounds like it,” Adam answered his friend. “I guess I’ll find out tonight at dinner.”


“We going out ring hunting again this weekend?” Josh was his best man, and he’d enlisted him into helping find the perfect ring.


“Lord willing,” Adam sighed, turning his attention back to his computer. He never made plans days in advance – life was uncertain enough.


“You know what I’m excited about?” Amy declared as she stood from her desk.


“The fact that tomorrow is Friday?” Josh guessed. Something was going on between them lately, Adam just hadn’t figured out what. The three of them had worked together for years but it seemed like his teammates’ relationship was becoming less platonic and more romantic in the past few weeks.


“That,” Amy agreed, smiling at him, “and the fact that NATO is ending its operations in Libya as of October 31. Finally, something happening on Halloween that I can celebrate!”


Adam just laughed, knowing how she felt. He was getting tired of reading about Libya and how they’d recovered since Gaddafi’s assassination. He looked forward to the day when the country embraced its democracy and the rest of the world could just move on.


“Less talk, more writing,” Dan looked around the room before going back to his office. The three friends exchanged glances and then got back to work.

October 26, 2011 – Rescuers Continue to Search for Survivors as Turkey Faces Quake Aftermath

Noise flooded the news room as the team at Winston’s Press rushed to make the four o’clock deadline. They were a small publication company in southern Ontario and the team of four reporters pounded their keyboards to get articles finished in time. Dan Cross was a stickler for things being completed by the deadline, and he was even more thrilled if articles were handed in early.


There were several stories that day – it was the Wednesday before Halloween and it felt like the world was getting more spooky as the week went on. Amy West hated this time of year. It wasn’t really just that she had a problem with the evil connotations of the holiday; that it promoted the focus on ghosts, goblins, witches and the like. She hated what it did to people – the office pranks, the spooky stories… she couldn’t take it anymore.


Unfortunately, the news world wasn’t that much prettier. Between Europe’s financial crisis, the earthquake in Turkey, and floods in Thailand, things looked pessimistic to say the least. Today, Amy was focusing on the earthquake in Turkey. She’d written an article earlier in the week when the earthquake had hit and now wanted to focus on the aftermath, the reactions, and where the country would go from here.


Turkey was finally going to be accepting foreign aid; that was the good news. They had initially been declining offers to help, but Amy guessed that they were finally admitting that the chaos was bigger than they could handle. More than 2,000 buildings had been destroyed and people needed accommodations fast.


Today, a 27-year-old teacher and an 18-year-old student were rescued as the student’s mother watched in tears. Eyup Erdem was a university student who was found using tiny cameras mounted on sticks. Rescuers broke into applause as he emerged from the debris. Amy couldn’t help but get emotional as she wrote.


“You okay, Amy?” Adam Princeton asked from his seat across from her. Their desks were set up in a circle so they could interact with each other throughout the day.


“Yeah, I’m good,” Amy wiped the tear from her eye. “Just writing about this student and teacher who got rescued in Turkey. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be stuck under debris for 48-hours.”


“I know,” Adam nodded with agreement. “I’m writing about Thailand. Residents are having to leave their homes and the Don Muang airport has already been forced to close.”


“How high is the water now, Adam?” Josh Canyon wanted to know.


“It’s reached 30 centimeters in some places and is overflowing onto sidewalks and some roads,” Adam answered. “It’s causing problems for small vehicles and it makes the traffic on the DVP look like a picnic compared to this place.”

Looking back at her screen, Amy focused on her article. At one of the buildings in Van, rescue workers who had been working non-stop for more than 48 hours switched off their generators and lights, convinced that no one was left alive. Seconds later, however, they received word that someone trapped below had made contact on a mobile phone. One of the rescue workers said that there were three three people trapped under there. When they lifted the concrete slab, he said that the phone must have attracted a signal. (Reuters) Lights were turned back on and his team returned to their job.


At one warehouse in Van, about 100 people looted Red Crescent trucks carrying food, carpets and clothes. A few officers were there, but they couldn’t do anything about it. In other areas, desperate survivors fought among themselves for tents distributed by relief workers.


Amy finished her article by talking about how victims claimed that poor construction and lax enforcement contributed to quake deaths. Nearly 500 people had died from the quake, and those left behind were claiming that because the buildings lacked steel support rods and sufficient concrete, builders of sacrificing safety for speed and economy.


One of the survivor’s quotes really made her shake her head. The quote had been in the Washington Post and she was going to be quoting them in her article, but she couldn’t wrap her head around what the person was saying. She was a Christian, and believed that God allowed natural disasters to happen, but she didn’t believe that he caused death or that natural disasters were a means of punishment for the sins of a country. As she chewed on this last quote, she wondered what others would think when they read it. She could only begin to imagine the kind of comments people would generate. A resident named Nezvat Altinkaynak asked, “Death comes from God. But what about poor construction?”

Thai Floods Cause Dike Breakage, Threatening Area Village

Residents of Thailand’s Munag Ake village are being urged to evacuate the area early Tuesday morning, according to Thailand’s Flood Relief Operations Center. The center’s director said parts of a dike at Tambon Lak Hok, Muang District, Pathum Thani province have broken and a mass of water is expected to flow into the village.

Flood waters could reach almost five feet (1.5 meters) in the village. The FROC said the Royal Thai Armed Forces will have vehicles at Rangsit University in Munag Ake village and will be moving residents out of the area.

In addition, the Thai Cabinet announced Tuesday public holidays for the end of the month due to anticipated high tides, which could further devastate the flood-ravaged country. The holidays will be from Thursday to next Monday and will be effective in 21 provinces that are still under water, including Bangkok and its suburban provinces, a government spokeswoman said. “The government would like to give time to people in affected areas to prepare for floods during high tide periods between (October) 28 to 30. Some people who have houses outside Bangkok could be able to live there during flood period,” said Thitima Chaiseang, the government spokeswoman. (CNN)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged employers in both the private and public sectors to allow time off for staff affected by the floods. In addition to allowing time off, Thailand’s Public Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri has ordered health units to be help ease the stress of residents. He said there are about 100,000 people suffering from stress related to the flooding.

Also, starting Tuesday, the CEO of Nok Air announced the airline is canceling flights in and out of Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport until October 31 due to the “flood crisis.” Pate Sarasin, CEO of Nok Air, posted a Twitter message saying “the water level is now at a critical area at the northern part of the runway.” Nok Air is allowing customers to change their flights free of charge. (CNN)

On Monday, floodwaters in Bangkok reached Don Muang Airport, one of the Thai capital’s two main airports and home to the flood relief operation command, according to a governor. In addition to Don Muang, residents in five other areas should prepare for floods, move their belongings to upper floors and take shelter at evacuation centers, Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said in a news conference on Monday.

The airport houses the government’s recently established emergency Flood Relief Operations Center, and one of its terminals has been converted into an overcrowded shelter filled with tents for about 4,000 people who fled waterlogged homes.
Somboon Klinchanhom, a 43-year-old civil servant who took refuge there last week, was preparing to move after authorities said the terminal had become too crowded and thousands of people displaced there would be relocated. “I thought it would be safe and well-protected,” Somboon said of the airport, as she packed her belongings again. (CBC)

The two main carriers based at Don Muang announced they were suspending operations and diverting flights to Suvarnabhumi because of the flood threat. They are Thai Orient Airlines and Nok Air, which said it was halting flights until Nov. 1. Capt. Kantpat Mangalasiri, the airport’s director, said Don Muang’s commercial runways would be closed until Nov. 1 to ensure safe aircraft operations.

Thai air force flights carrying relief supplies were continuing on a military runway that is still open, air force spokesman Montol Suchukorn said. He said floodwaters had breached the military’s air base, but the runway remains protected by flood barriers. Last week, the air force moved 20 planes from Don Muang as a precaution. The government’s flood relief command will remain at the airport for now since it is still accessible by road, spokesman Wim Rungwattanjinda said. He said the government expects floodwaters will sweep through the main parts of Don Muang by Friday, but would not rise above one metre.

Thammasat University’s gymnasium, which has been used as an evacuation center, is also flooded and without electricity and is itself being evacuated, the governor added. As a remedy, about 4,000 people will be used to Rajamangala Stadium in central Bangkok with the help of 300 to 400 volunteers, according to the governor. In the east, the industrial estates of Lat Krabang and Bang Chan remained under threat, and volunteers were sought for help with sandbagging. The governor urged the public not to panic and to follow his reports closely.

Protecting Bangkok was a priority because it comprises the economic heart of Thailand, Prime Minister Yingluck told CNN Sunday. “But it doesn’t mean we have no concern for the people who are suffering from the flooding,” she added.

The decision to divert water through canals in Bangkok means parts of the city and its surrounding suburbs, such as Rangsit, are flooded. Residents have resorted to moving out of flooded homes by boat or anything that could float – or wading through water with plastic bags of belongings balanced on their heads or pets tucked into clothes.

The government has called the flooding the worst to afflict the nation in half a century and said some areas might require more than a month before waters recede. More high tides are expected in the coming week, which could cause rivers to back up, further raising water levels, according to Thailand’s Flood Relief Operations Command.
The government has set up more than 1,700 shelters nationwide, and more than 113,000 people have taken refuge. Many residents waded through the dirty water in the capital in recent days, as they made a desperate attempt to save their belongings.

The flooding has already killed 356 people, with nearly 9 million others affected, authorities said. Overall damage from the floods has risen and could top $6 billion, with the worst yet to come as the waters destroy shops and paralyze factories nationwide, the Thai Finance Ministry said. Thailand derives a significant portion of its revenue from tourism, which has been hurt by the flooding.

On Tuesday, the Thai cabinet announced a $10.5 billion fund to help rebuild the country – mainly aimed at small and medium businesses, small vendors and individuals, reported Reuters news agency. “If they get back to normal quickly, it will help push the economy forward,” the agency quoted Finance Minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala as saying of the business. (BBC)

279 Reported Dead in Turkey Earthquake; 1,300 More Hurt

Using shovels, heavy machinery and their bare hands, rescue workers scrambled through piles of rubble to find survivors Monday after a deadly 7.2-magnitude earthquake devastated parts of eastern Turkey.


Sunday’s major quake struck at 1:41 p.m. local time and was centered about 12 miles from Van, the agency said. The quake was also felt in Iran and Armenia. Numerous aftershocks – the largest a magnitude 6.0 – rattled eastern Turkey, one of the nation’s poorest areas.


The death toll has risen to 279, with another 1,300 injured, Turkey’s semi-official Anatolian news agency reported, citing the country’s disaster management authority. Some 970 buildings are demolished. There have been conflicting reports about the number of dead, however. Interior Minister Idris Sahin said Monday that as many as 264 people were dead, while Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay put the death toll at 239. “As the rescue work progresses, there is a possibility of the Ercis death toll increasing, but the figures are not likely to be scary numbers,” he said. (CBC)


It was difficult to tally the number of injured, Health Minister Recap Akdag said, because many were being treated and released. The military was assisting with search-and-rescue efforts, Atalay said.


Turkish Prime Minister Recap Tayyip Erdogan said 55 buildings collapsed in Ecris on on the north shore of Lake Van. The Turkish Red Crescent said about 25 apartment buildings collapsed in the town. A health services building also collapsed, along with part of a hospital, CNN sister network CNN Turk reported. The injured were being treated in the hospital’s garden.


“People are really scared,” CNN Turk reporter Nevsin Mengu said from Van. “The survivors are now trying to survive the cold weather.” Rescuers and survivors contended with near-freezing temperatures early Monday. Some people collected wood from collapsed buildings to burn for warmth, Menu said. She said many residents are not returning to their houses, opting instead to sleep on rooftops or in the streets. It was not clear whether their homes were uninhabitable or they were just too frightened. Electricity and natural gas were off in most of the city, but Atalay said officials hope to restore power in Van and Ercis by Monday night. Trucks carrying medical aid and food were seen driving into Van. But rescue teams had not reached some of the smaller villages, Mengu said.


A student dormitory was among the buildings that collapsed, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said. At least 10 students died in the collapse, freelance reporter Dorian Jones told CBC News Network from Istanbul. “Turkey is bracing itself for more bad news,” he said. Jones said there are fears that many villages in the areas have been divested. “In some villages, all of the houses have been leveled. [In] one village alone, six children died,” he said. (CBC)


“There are so many dead,” Zulfikar Arapoglu, the mayor of Ecris, told NTV television. “Several buildings have collapsed, there is too much destruction. We need urgent aid, we need medics.” (CBC)


One man, stuck in the fetal position under a large piece of debris, was visible only through a small hole in the rubble. The man appeared weak and exhausted after rescuers pulled him out, his clothes torn. At one point, rescue workers halted operations to try to hear whether anyone was knocking for help.


Survivor Yalcin Akay was dug from a collapsed six-story building with a leg injury after he called a police emergency line on his phone and described his location, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Three other people, including two children, were also rescued from the same building in the city of Ecris some 20 hours after the quake struck, officials said. A fifth survivor, Tugba Atinkaynak, a 21-year-old woman, was rescued from the rubble after being trapped for roughly 27 hours.


“We stayed outdoors all night, I could not sleep at all, my children, especially the little one, was terrified,” said Serpil Bilici of her six-year-old daughter, Rabia. “I grabbed her and rushed out when the quake hit, we were all screaming. Bilici, a mother of five children aged between six and 16, said her house had only cracks, but her family was too afraid to go back inside. She lost one relative in the quake. (CBC)


A woman who lost her parents sat on the ground metres away from another crumpled building, sobbing as relatives tried to comfort her.


While daytime highs will reach 13 C over the next couple of days with only a few showers, overnight temperatures are expected to plunge to the freezing mark on Monday night. “That’s going to be a challenge for us,” said Alper Kucuk, the executive officer for international relations at the Turkish Red Crescent. “We are trying our best, but we don’t want to lose our hope because we are still saving the lives of people in the region.” (CBC)


Around 1,275 rescue teams from 38 provinces were being sent to the region, officials said, and troops were also assisting search and rescue efforts.


The Red Crescent called for rescue workers, machinery and drinking water. A crisis center was set up by the country’s Health Ministry in the Turkish capital of Ankara. By Monday, more than 2,300 emergency personnel were in the region, Atalay said. Tents and rescue teams have have come from as far away as Iran and Azerbaijan. The crisis center said Sunday that 29 surrounding towns had sent help and medical helicopters were taking the injured for treatment in other provinces. Thirty-seven patients were taken to Ankara, Atalay said Monday. Two tent hospitals were being set up in Ecris on Sunday, and two cargo planes were dispatched from the capital carrying medical teams and aid. Erdogan and Akdag arrived in the area Sunday, according to the Ministry of Health’s crisis center.


Some survivors in the ethnic Kurd areas complained that not enough help was reaching them. “Tents will not be enough – we do not have food, no rescue teams have reached here yet,” said Serif Tarakci, an official from the village of Halkali, about 50 km (30 miles) from Van. “It’s cold cold at night, everybody is outside and we’re freezing here,” the New York Times quoted him as saying.


Another resident of Van said that tents were in short supply. “All the nylon tents are in the black market now,” Ibrahim Baydar, a 40-year-old tradesman from Van, told Reuters news agency. “We cannot find any. People are queuing for them. No tents were given to us whatsoever,” he said. (BBC)


Some of the rescue workers have complained of a lack of adequate equipment, said the Hurriyet Daily News. “We are working with primitive tools, we have no equipment,” one rescuer told the Turkish newspaper. (BBC)


Israel offered Turkey “any help it may require” after the earthquake, Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s office said. (CNN) Israel and Turkey, once close allies, saw a deterioration in relations in a dispute over an Israeli naval commando raid on the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara, in which nine Turkish activists were killed.


A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the country, while grateful for offers of aid, is prepared to handle the disaster on its own. Prime Minister Erdogan thanked other countries for their offers of help, but said Turkey could cope with the disaster on its own.


Turkey is “no stranger to having these seismic events,” but Sunday’s quake is considered major,  CNN Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf said. A magnitude-7.6 earthquake in Izmit, Turkey, killed more than 17,000 people in 1999, according to the United States Geological Survey. A magnitude-7.2 tremor in Duzce the same year killed 894 people, the agency reported.

Moammar Gaddafi Killed in Libya

Former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi was killed Thursday when revolutionary fighters overran his last loyalist stronghold, setting off raucous celebrations of victory in an eight-month war backed by NATO. Gaddafi, 69, a long-entrenched autocrat who was driven from power in Tripoli two months ago, died as the revolutionaries ended loyalist resistance in Sirte, his home town and tribal power base, the new government announced.


“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told a  news conference here. “Moammar Gaddafi has been killed.” (Washington Post)


In Washington, President Obama said Gaddafi’s death “marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya, who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya.” He told the Libyan people: “You have won your revolution.” (Washington Post)


The dramatic final battle capped a drawn-out fight in which NATO played a key role, bombarding Gaddafi’s forces under an unprecedented U.N. mandate to protect civilians who had risen up against their government. A NATO airstrike appeared to cripple Gaddafi’s convoy early Thursday as it sped out of Sirte, although revolutionary fighters said they were the ones who then moved in and shot the former leader.


Gaddafi, who ruled Libya for 42 years until Tripoli fell in August, was the first leader to die in the Arab Spring uprisings. The capture of Sirte – and the death of Gaddafi – clear the way for the appointment of a new interim government that is to steer the country toward new elections, expected in eight or nine months. The new Libyan government will face some of the most daunting challenges of any of the Arab Spring countries. The revolutionaries have pledged to build a democracy in a country that has never had one. Gaddafi had banned opposition parties and a free pass and largely ruled single-handedly, even though he shunned official titles.


The confirmation of Gaddafi’s death came after hours of conflicting reports following the final assault on Sirte, Gaddafi’s last refuge about 280 miles east of Tripoli.


Abdulrahman Busin, the military liaison to Libya’s transitional government, said Gaddafi and a number of his allies were trying to leave Sirte when revolutionaries fired on them. “There was an exchange of fire in which he was injured,” said Busin. The revolutionary forces then captured the former leader, he said. He said Gaddafi was found with a 9 mm pistol and a semiautomatic rifle. Busin said Gaddafi may have been in a part of the convoy hit by a NATO airstrike. But he added: “Our forces went in and did the rest. He wasn’t killed by NATO.” (Washington Post)


It was not immediately clear, however, whether Gaddafi was initially wounded in the airstrike. Video footage broadcast by CNN showed Gaddafi bloodied and upright and apparently alive when he was first caught by revolutionaries. Later images showed his body inert and stripped of his shirt as he lay on the ground.


Busin predicted that the interim leadership would declare the “full liberation” of Libya within 48 hours, which would trigger the naming of a new temporary government and the preparation of elections. The government had received intelligence that Gaddafi was “constantly on the move,” Busin said. “He could have possibly gone to Sirte in the last week or so.” (Washington Post)


After about 90 minutes of fighting early Thursday, revolutionaries overran the last pro-Gaddafi holdouts in Sirte, a coastal city on the Gulf of Sidra, and effectively ending the war in which NATO intervened military to protect a pro-democracy uprising. Gaddafi, who had ruled Libya since coming to power in a 1969 military coup, vanished as the revolutionaries siezed Tripoli in late August, and his whereabouts remained a mystery until Thursday’s fall of Sirte.


In a statement to reporters in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said: “Today we can definitively say that the Gaddafi regime has come to an end. The last major regime strongholds have fallen. The new government is consolidating control over the country. And one of the world’s longest-serving dictators is no more.” He added: “This is a momentous day in the history of Libya. The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted.” Obama said Libyans “now have a great responsibility” to build an inclusive, tolerant and and democratic country. He also called on the new Libyan authorities to continue working with the international community to “secure dangerous materials,” such as shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles that have been looted, and to “respect the human rights of all Libyans,” including those who have been detained. For the region, today’s events prove once more than the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end,” Obama said. (Washington Post)


Obama paid tribute to Americans who have been killed in terrorist operations sponsored by Gaddafi and hailed the service members from the United States and other NATO countries who have enforced a no-fly zone over Libya and carried out airstrikes against Gaddafi’s forces. “Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end,” Obama said. He did not take questions after his statement. (Washington Post)


British Prime Minister David Cameron has said it is a day to remember Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s victims. The prime minister said people in Libya now had an even greater chance to build a strong democratic future. UK forces have been part of NATO-led operations targeting Gaddafi regime positions to protect  Libyan civilians.


Meanwhile, the Scottish government has said it is ready to re-open the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing, saying the Libyan intelligence agent who was convicted “did not act alone.” (BBC)


In the evening, Libyans gathered outside the country’s embassy in London and on the streets in Manchester – home to the UK’s largest expatriate community – to mark the news. Speaking outside Number 10, Mr. Cameron said: “I think today is a day to remember all of Colonel Gaddafi’s victims, from those who died in connection with the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, to Yvonne Fletcher in a London street and obviously all the victims of IRA terrorism who died through their use of the Libyan Semtex. “We should also remember the many, many Libyans who died at the hands of this brutal dictator and his regime.” The prime minister added: “People in Libya today have an even greater chance, after this news, of building themselves a strong and democratic future. I’m proud of the role that Britain has played in helping them to bring that about and I pay tribute to the bravery of the Libyans who have helped to liberate their country. We will help them, we will work with them, and that is what I want to say today.” (BBC)


Canada’s combat mission in Libya will end in the next two weeks. Sources tell CBC News that the timing will be discussed with Canada’s allies in the days ahead. In March, parliamentarians voted unanimously in favour of the initial motion in support of a three-month contribution to NATO’s air mission, based in Trapani, Italy. They voted in favour of extending the 650-person mission by another three months. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would continue its mission as long as NATO was there. The mission is UN-approved and aimed to protect civilians on both sides of the conflict.


In a statement, NATO Secretary General Andres Fogh Rasmussen said NATO and its partners successfully implemented the UN mandate to protect the people of Libya. “We will terminate our mission in co-ordination with the United Nations and [Libya’s] National Transitional Council. With the reported fall of Bani Walid and Sirte, that moment has now moved much closer,” Rasmussen said. (CBC)


Canada will be with the Libyans as they build a civil, democratic society, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last month to open the debate on the latest mission extension. Canada’s role is no less important now than it was in March, he said. “The situation was dire. It was urgent. Benghazi was under the threat of attack, Misrata was under siege,” he said. “It was clear that Gaddafi had lost all legitimacy.” (CBC) MacKay said Canada should be there to help the Libyan people establish civil society and democratic institutions.


NDP defence critic Jack Harris said Canada had done more than its fair share militarily and should refocus its efforts on rebuilding Libya. Harris said Canada should look at what can be done to develop rule of law and provide aid in the country. Canada reopened its embassy in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, last month. The federal government also unfroze about $2.2 billion in assets belonging to Libyan companies and its government.

Clashes Break Out as Greek Strikers Aim for Nationwide Shutdown

Protesters and police clashed violently in front of the Greek parliament building Wednesday, as tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Athens on the first day of a two-day general strike over austerity measures. At least six protesters and 15 police officers were injured amid the disturbances, police said, and at least 15 people were arrested.


Strikers in Greece aim to shut down wide sectors of the country, a day before lawmakers vote on a new round of tough cost-cutting measures. “Don’t bow your head, it’s time for resistance and struggle,” marchers chanted in the capital as numbers swelled for the union-backed demonstration. (CNN)


The violence broke out around lunchtime in one corner of the square, beside Parliament House, as a group of protesters dressed mostly in black threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police. Officers fired tear gas and stun grenades, or “flash bangs,” in return, sending noisy detonations echoing round the square. Smoke filled the area by mid-afternoon as fire burned in front of the finance ministry, forcing many peaceful demonstrators to move away.


The strike, called by both public and private sector unions, closed government departments, businesses, offices and shops. Air traffic controllers staged a 12-hour walkout, with some 150 domestic and international flights cancelled.


Police estimated that more than 70,000 people were protesting in Athens, and said they planned to put between 2,500 and 3,000 officers on the streets. Organizers estimated the turnout at 120,000 people. More than 100 security officers guarded parliament, enforcing a 50-yard empty space between the demonstrators and the building. Initially, most of the protesters gathered peacefully in front of Parliament House waving union flags, red flags and banners.


“I’m here for my children and everyone else’s children. Those punks in there have destroyed everyone’s lives,” said former railway worker Diamandis Goufas, 62, pointing at parliament. (CNN)


One striker, university lecturer Yannis Zebetakis, told the BBC Greece was like “a taxation Armageddon”. “The economy is dying. Along with the economy, we are dying. The austerity measures are not working and our best people are being forced to go abroad,” he said. (BBC)


Greeks are angry at yet another round of planned austerity measures as Greece tries to bring down its stratospheric debt. Lawmakers are trying to cut government costs to reassure international backers it is doing enough to earn the bailout funds that they promised to pour into the country, with more austerity measures expected to pass Thursday. The new bill would lead to around 30,000 job losses and further cuts to wages and pensions for workers in the public sector.


That has left at least some Greeks furious at the countries demanding that Greece bring down its spending. “We are not lazy; it’s the Germans, they want to take our blood,” said Eleftherios Zarkados. (CNN)


At least one student said Wednesday that Thursday would not mark the end of the battle between politicians and the public. “We will continue to resist even if the measures pass,” said Sophia Titou, 21, a law student who works at an oil refinery. (CNN)


Many on the streets said they are angry that the well-off people they believe are benefiting from corruption and tax evasion are not being pursued, while public sector workers pay the price for Greece’s woes.


“We just can’t take it any more. There is desperation, anger, and bitterness,” said Nikos Anastasopoulos, head of a worker’s union for an Athens municipality. (CBC) Other municipal workers said they had no option but to take to the streets. “We can’t make ends meet for our families,” said protester Eleni Voulieri. “We’ve lost our salaries, we’ve lost everything and we’re in danger of losing our jobs.” (CBC)


“We’ve reached a certain limit,” said Vasia Retsou, 30, a public school kindergarten teacher, who said she had come to protest for the first time, as she marched in a group of students. (New York Times)


Anastasia Dotsi, 70, a retired bank worker, said anger had driven her out to protest. “We have been crushed as a people,” she said. She said her son and daughter, who both work in the private sector, had not been paid in months and were struggling to pay their mortgages and support their families. “There’s no precedent for this,” Ms. Dotsi added. “I have never been a leftist, I voted for Pasok” – the Socialist Party of Prime Minister George Papandreou – “I consider myself a middle-class person. But they’ve pushed us to become extremists.” (New York Times)


As she stood at the base of the Syntagma Square, Maria Sarrafidou, 53, a psychiatrist, said that three psychiatric care centers where she had worked had closed down in recent months. At the same time, she added, she sees more patients in her private practice, but they pay her less. “Mostly panic disorders,” she said. “In the last two years I’ve seen children and adults. They have no hope for the future. They wait and wait, this is the most difficult part,” she added. “They don’t know what’s going to happen.” (New York Times)


Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whose offices were taken over by protesting civil servants earlier this month, appealed for support for the austerity measures. He said it was an “agonizing but necessary struggle to avoid the final and harshest point of the crisis.” (BBC) “We have to explain to all these indignant people who see their lives changing that what the country is experiencing is not the worst stage of the crisis,” Mr. Venizelos told lawmakers. “It is an anguished and necessary effort to avoid the ultimate, deepest and harshest level of the crisis. The difference between a difficult situation and a catastrophe is immense.” (CBC)


Prime Minister George Papandreou’s Pasok party has a four-seat majority, but some of his backbenchers have threatened to vote against the measures. In a bid to galvanize support on Tuesday, Mr. Papandreou appealed to Socialist lawmakers to put the common good above personal concerns. “We must endure this battle so that the country can win, we must be calm and rise to the challenge,” he said, noting that passing the new measures were crucial to clinching critical rescue funding from foreign creditors. “The vote will boost our negotiating position, it will give us strength for the E.U. summit,” he said. The key goal for Greece, Mr. Papandreou said, was “to stay in the euro zone.” (New York Times)


Greece has rising unemployment and a stalled economy and is saddled with a government debt that is 162% of its gross domestic product. Last year the European Union set up a central bailout fund and agreed to provide Greece with 110 billion euros ($152 billion). But the loan failed to stabilize the country’s economy, and the EU later agreed another 109-billion euro package.


EU leaders are scrambling to minimize the effect of Greece’s debt on their common currency, the euro. Over the weekend, finance minsters from the world’s largest economies pledged their commitment to take “all necessary actions” to stabilize markets. (CNN) They aim to keep banks well capitalized so they can weather the effects of any defaults by Greece or other indebted countries like Portugal, Spain, Ireland or Italy.


But there appears to be a split between France and Germany – Europe’s two largest economies – on how to do it. Germany has stressed that individual European states should inject capital into domestic banks that lack sufficient buffers. But analysts say France is opposed to this idea because it could jeopardize the nation’s top-tier credit rating.


EU leaders and global finance chiefs are in talks over the eurozone crisis. French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Germany late on Wednesday to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and senior officials from the European Central Bank and IMF. “If the euro fails, Europe fails. But we will not allow that,” Mrs. Merkel said. (BBC)


European leaders are expected to hear concrete details about how the plan might work at a European Council meeting Sunday. EU heads of state are widely expected to finalize the plan in early November at a meeting of the Group of 20 world economic powers.