This Week in the World: April 10, 2014

Afghanistan holds landmark elections

On Saturday, Afghanistan held an election to vote for the new president, which signifies the first ever democratic transfer of power in the country. Heavy rains fell, but this did not stop seven million men and women from finding pollings station at which to vote. Voters were in line an hour before the polls opened, and BBC correspondents compared the atmosphere to a carnival. Voting was also extended an hour to enable more people to cast their ballots. The Taliban had vowed to disrupt the election, although all 400,000 of the country’s police and soldiers were out in force to protect voters. Ten per cent of polling stations were closed after being deemed unsafe, and three significant attacks occurred across the country. It will take approximately six weeks for the results to be counted. Eight candidates are vying to replace President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term.

Four dead after Fort Hood shooting

Last Wednesday night, Ivan Lopez, an army specialist who served in Iraq, opened fire at the Fort Hood army base in Texas. He killed three people and injured sixteen more before taking his own life. CBC News reported that there is evidence that Lopez was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and was in a very unstable psychological state. Three victims remain in critical condition and are awaiting more surgery. In 2009, Fort Hood suffered the deadliest attack on a domestic military base in U.S. history, in which thirteen people were killed, and more than thirty injured. Lopez’s motive for the April 2 attack remains unknown.

Ebola clinic attacked in Guinea

An Ebola outbreak in Guinea has killed eighty-six people across the country in the past month. A crowd of angry people attacked a centre where people have been held in isolation, forcing an international aid group to evacuate the centre on Saturday. The mob of people accused Médecins Sans Frontières health workers of bringing the disease to Guinea, where the disease has never been seen before. Ebola is transmitted to humans who have eaten bats, or an animal that was bitten by a bat, but the Associated Press reports that this reality has not stopped the spread of misinformation and fear. Guinea’s government has openly stated that international aid groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières are key to arresting the spread of the disease. There is no cure for Ebola and up to ninety per cent of patients die from the strain that has been found in Guinea.

London smog raises health concerns

Schools in London, England closed their playgrounds and kept the children inside after the smog levels hit the top level of ten last week, the Associated Press reported. The London Ambulance Service said that it has been seeing an increasing numbers of calls from people with breathing difficulties, asthma, and heart problems, raising concerns for the people living in London. Many were hoping that the smog would be carried away by winds coming from the Atlantic, but for many others, the smog was still a huge concern. Gary Fuller, an air-quality expert, told AP that the recent smog had caught public attention because it was visible, whereas pollution is often hard to see. He also mentioned that there has been an increase in diesel vehicles.

Troops take over Brazilian slums

Nearly 3,000 Brazilian troops have occupied one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous slums in preparation for June’s World Cup soccer tournament. Turf fights between gangs, muggings, drug wars, and car robberies, among other crimes have increased in recent months. The slums, called favelas, are generally controlled by local drug lords. People in the area are known to live in fear, BBC News reports, although since the military occupation, the war-like situation has been pacified, if only slightly. Tanks, helicopters, and armoured vehicles are all being used in this “pacification” of the area.

Malaysia will not give up its search

Malaysia has vowed that it will not give up trying to find the missing jetliner that disappeared on March 8 with 239 on board. No trace of the jet has been found so far, the Associated Press reported, although there have been many efforts to solve its mysterious disappearance. Malaysia’s defence minister has said that an independent investigator will join the search to lead a team to search for the missing plane, and will be made up of three groups: one looking at maintenance, structures and systems in the air, one examining operations, and one considering medical and human factors. The Associated Press reported that finding floating wreckage is key to narrowing the search area and to backtrack to where the plane hit the water. If there is no floating wreckage to be found, it would take years and an enormous international operation to do a survey of the entire Indian Ocean floor.

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