International Briefs – May 2, 2012

Dutch businesses forbidden to sell cannabis to international tourists

Dutch authorities have passed a law that prohibits foreigners from buying cannabis, or marijuana, in the Netherlands. It requires coffee shops to only sell cannabis to registered citizens, reversing a 40-year long period in which the Netherlands was known for its free sale of the drug. It will also prevent any coffee shop within 350 meters of a school from selling cannabis. The law will be in effect in three southern provinces first and will become nationwide next year. Coffee shops around the nation are trying to repeal this law.

Saudi Arabia closes Cairo embassy

Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Cairo April 28 after a series of protests and arrests. The Saudi Arabian ambassador was sent back to Egypt and all the employees were recalled, sparking concern for a political rift between the two nations.

The protests surged after an arrest of an Egyptian lawyer in Saudi Arabia that caused controversy within Egypt. Egyptian authorities are calling the embassy closing a result of “unjustified demonstrations” and “hostile slogans.”

Chinese lawyer escapes house arrest

Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights lawyer, escaped his 19-month house arrest in China April 27 and is thought to have been taken to the American embassy in Beijing, although officials refuse to confirm this. Reports said he disappeared that night and left no indication of how he escaped.

He has said he does not wish to leave China, but he hopes to negotiate his freedom. There are no legal accusations against Guangcheng, but the Chinese government has heavily guarded his house for months as punishment for his representation of peasants and disabled people. American diplomats have confirmed this case does not require national security.

Explosions in Ukraine injure dozens

Several blasts believed to be terrorist-related injured 27 people in Ukraine April 27. Opposition parties suspect that Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government instigated the attacks to avoid international attention for the abuse of former Prime Minister  Yulia Tymoshenko while she was in prison. Bombs went off at a tram stop, near a popular movie theater and in the city center.

Despite the desire to deflect worldwide attention, nations are cutting ties with Ukraine and are contemplating boycotting the Euro 2012 soccer championship that Ukraine will co-host in June.

Gunmen open fire on Nigerian church

Bayero University’s campus church in Nigeria was attacked April 29 by gunmen. They planted explosives within the church to force people to leave during the service, and when they got outside the building, they were shot at multiple times. At least 16 were killed and others were seriously injured. The gunmen fled on motorcycles before police could capture them. The reason for the attack is currently unknown, and no arrests have been made.

Counterfeit problems plague Italy

The Campania region in Italy has been exposed for its immense amount of counterfeit money. In recent years, the government has had to pull anywhere from 550,000 to 800,000 fake euros from circulation, and more than half of the bills originated in Campania. Banks and businesses are cracking down on the paper notes they accept for fear of cashing counterfeit money. Italian police are investigating sources for the fake bills, and arrests are becoming more frequent.

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