Weekly geopolitical events
By Keating Smith, Staff Writer
North America: (Alaska) Dutch petroleum giant Shell announced last week that it will postpone drilling in the Arctic Ocean in 2013 amidst safety concerns. A short summer season, plagued by large ice floes in the Chukchi Sea, caused several drilling ships to lose their positions, while a drilling barge designed to operate in sea ice conditions broke away during towing to Washington State, going aground in the Aleutian Islands. The United States Coast Guard also found 16 safety violations on one of Shell’s drill ships while it was at dock in Seward, Alaska. A spokesperson for Shell said the company might resume drilling operations off the coast of Alaska in 2014.
Latin & South America: (Cuba) Raul Castro has publically announced that he will step down from his presidency in five years. Raul will be 86 years old when he resigns—the current age of his older brother, Fidel. With both siblings composing the last 50 years of Cuban leadership, many citizens are expressing signs of optimism towards political change in the near future, particularly around the American trade embargo on Cuba. Fifty-two-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, current vice-president of the Council of State, is slated to be Castro’s successor.
Asia- Central & South: (India) The Indian government released their annual budget for the country’s railway network last week, with spending estimated to be $4.8 billion for the fiscal year. Last year, India’s railway network received $96 billion to improve on railway safety and security despite India’s parliament being told $120 billion would be the absolute minimum needed to improve safety standards. Inflation for passengers and cargo has risen by 20 per cent in the last year and the India Railways Board feels that a mix of increases in taxes and fares will be the solution to modernizing the country’s derelict railway system, while improving safety standards. 7.2 billion rides are taken each year on India’s 115,000-kilometre railway network, with figures showing that 15,000 people die annually from train accidents in the country.
Asia–Pacific: (Australia) Authorities in Australia seized nearly 600 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine at a deep-sea port in Sydney last week. The narcotic bust has been confirmed as the largest seizure on a shipment of crystal meth to enter the country ever by the Australian Federal Police. The AFP were tipped off by the public last September and began a full-fledged investigation, which lead to the arrest of three men holding Hong Konger, Singaporean, and Australian passports in the country last week. Thirty-eight bags hidden inside of larger bags of sodium metabisulphate, an industrial cleaner, were discovered in containers that were being shipped to Australia from Shen Zhen—a major port city in southern China.
Europe: (Russia) Chechnya’s President, Ramzan Kadyrov, has become the latest Internet star in Russia after gaining thousands of followers on both Twitter and Instagram. Under the username Kadyrov_95 on Instagram, the Chechen president has posted pictures of himself doing things such as visiting the dentist and meeting with top Russian politicians, including President Vladimir Putin. “I am not a fan of social networking sites, but I love Twitter and Instagram,” Kadyrov told Rossiya TV in an interview. “I find [Instagram] to be an effective helpline in reaching out to citizens.” Kadyrov is notoriously known throughout the Northern Caucasus and the rest of Russia for treating the small republic as his own personal fiefdom and his malicious abuses against basic human rights to Chechens.
Middle East: (Egypt) A hot-air balloon ride ended tragically last week in Egypt’s southern town of Luxor after it caught on fire and plummeted 300 meters to the ground, killing 18 foreign tourists and wounding two including the pilot. Under contract, the Thomas Cook-owned aircraft was being operated by Bright Sky Travel to provide rides for tourists in the area and has been accused of cutting corners on safety in order to maximize profits for the company. A spokesperson for Thomas Cook told the press that they do not have any control over how independent companies contracted by Thomas Cook carry out their business. The same balloon, which fatally crashed last week, was involved in a similar accident in 2011 when it crashed into the Nile River, nearly colliding with an oncoming ferry.