The opening of the Olympic Games this week pushed many stories to the sidelines. Here are some of the important stories from last week that you might have missed.
1. On Friday, fighting between Russian and Georgian forces broke out, marking the worst fighting in nearly twenty years. Georgia claims that the two countries are now officially at war, and accusses Russia of choosing this moment hoping that the Olympic Games will divert attention away from their action. Russia claims they had to intervene to prevent ethnic cleansing on the part of the Georgian government; Georgia claims Russia is involved in ethnic cleansing of its own. The UN Security Council has since taken up the matter.
2. Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf canceled his planned trip to the opening of the Olympic Games after the country’s ruling coalition announced plans for impeachment. Musharraf, a former general who came to power through a military coup, has been widely touted as one of the United States’ closest allies in the war on terror, despite the inability of the Pakistani government to effectively address the presence of al Qaeda-linked groups in the northwestern part of the country. The planned impeachment raises concerns about the stability of Pakistan.
3. Salim Hamdan, former driver for Osama bin Laden, was sentenced on Thursday to 66 months in prison for supporting terrorism. After being found not guilty on a number of other charges, Hamdan could be free in less than 6 months after being granted credit for the five years he has already served as a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. The verdict was the first issued by the military tribunal system established to try prisoners captured by the US government in the war on terror. The Pentagon has already announced that Hamdan may be held as an enemy combatant even after he completes the sentence issued by the military tribunal.
4. An economic slowdown in Germany has raised concerns about the economic stability of the European Union. The Euro declined to $1.5378 to US $1, marking a seven-week low. A sharp increase in bankruptcies and the fact that Japan is close to declaring it is in a recession confirm the fact that the economic downturn in the United States is having a global impact.
5. Violence in the Xinjiang region in northwestern China broke out late last week, as Muslim separatists hoped to use the media focus on the country to draw attention to their cause. The attacks, which included both gun battles and the use of explosives, marked the largest outbreak of violence in the region since the 1990s.