This week in the world: February 11, 2015

Retrial set for Egyptian-Canadian journalist imprisoned in Egypt

Mohamed Fahmy will begin a retrial in Egyptian courts on Feb. 12, according to sources close to the journalist. After being imprisoned since Dec. 2013 on charges connected to spreading lies and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, Fahmy was sentenced to a seven to ten-year term alongside his Al-Jazeera colleagues, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian journalist Baher Mohamed. Greste was released from prison on Feb. 1, while Baher remains imprisoned with Fahmy in Cairo. International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney requested a meeting with President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi and Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry to speak on Fahmy’s behalf for his hopeful release. The Canadian government released a statement on Feb. 8 that calls for the immediate release for Fahmy, although family members of the journalist believe that the government should intervene further after Fahmy was forced to drop his Egyptian citizenship in exchange for a possible release.

Saudi Arabian blogger escapes flogging for fourth week in ‘1,000 lash’ sentence

Blogger Raif Badawi was not flogged on Feb. 6 as part of his sentencing announced in May 2014 according to his wife Ensaf Haidar. Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes to be carried out in 20 sessions in front of a mosque, as well as 10 years in jail, USD $266,000 in fines, a 10-year ban on overseas travel and a 10-year ban on participating in visual, electronic and written media. The blogger was an activist and co-founder of the “Free Saudi Liberals” website in 2008, which criticized practitioners of the Islamic school of religion known as Wahhabism. On Jan. 9, Badawi received his first set of 50 lashes outside al-Jafali Mosque in Jeddah, but the floggings have since been delayed each subsequent week on the grounds of health concerns. Many human rights activists have been outspoken against the Saudi Arabian government against this case, citing the punishments as inhumane.


B.C. village evacuated after record snowfall strikes community

Officials ordered the evacuation of Kitamat Village in British Columbia’s Haisla First Nation after a snowfall of approximately 180 cm that fell between Feb. 3 and Feb. 7. Power outages, fallen hydro poles and continued snow accumulation created obstacles for transportation of the 800 residents within the village. Most of the residents were able to evacuate and move themselves to the Kitimat Riverlodge Leisure Centre about 15 kilometres north in the town of Kitimat, while others have retreated to the safety of family and friends.

Robot prototype proposed by London researchers promotes autonomy, independence and care among elderly

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire in Britain have developed a social robot prototype designed to work in tandem with relatives and caretakers of people in elderly communities. The robot has been created to help combat loneliness and isolation among elderly people, as it possesses the tools to speak and interact with emotion, as well as to remember people and faces. Farshid Amirabdollahian completed the prototype with a team of nine partner institutions across Europe in a project called Acceptable Robotics Companions for Ageing Years over the past three years. Though studies are still being conducted, formal and informal care centres for the elderly across France, the Netherlands and Britain are expected to examine the project.


Required screenings and vaccinations at University of California upon measles outbreak

The University of California released a new health plan on Feb. 6 requiring incoming students at all 10 campuses to be screened for tuberculosis and vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases before being admitted to the institution. The policy change extends beyond the required hepatitis B shots currently in effect for the 233,000 students and has also surfaced in the wake of a measles outbreak of more than 100 people in the state since December. The resurgence of the disease, which was believed dormant since 2000 before the recent diagnoses, has spurred debate among U.S. legislators on enforced vaccination amidst the outcry of anti-inoculation supporters.

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