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NEWSFLASH: Need-to-Know Stories 12/8 - 12/14


Nelson Mandela was laid to rest this week after countless South Africans and world leaders paid tribute to the politician, human rights activist and revolutionary. In North Korea, however, things were less joyous as reports that Kim Jong Un had executed his uncle raised fears that more deaths are to following in Kim's political purges. Colorado sees another shooting as an 18-year-old student stormed his high school, intent on retribution against faculty member. Finally, Ukraine's protestors finally see some leeway after a three-week uprising marked by violence and unrest.

Welcome back to NEWSFLASH, giving you the week's biggest stories!

Nelson Mandela Remembered

A huge crowd of thousands gathered on Tuesday to remember ex-South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. World leaders and South African citizens filled Soweto’s FNB Stadium where Mandela made his last public appearance for a grief-stricken but commemorative service.

Mandela, 95, passed away on Dec 5 after years of poor health, during which he was in and out of hospitals. While he had been responding positively to treatment, Mandela’s health remained in a precarious position up to his death.

Mandela retired from public life in 2004 but never faded from the international scene. The anti-apartheid revolutionary continued to champion human rights and peace around the world.

The former South African president’s body was taken to Qunu, Mandela’s childhood home. Since Mandela retired from political life he had been spending the majority of his time in Qunu, with the rural village giving him a newfound sense of peace and tranquility. At least 100,000 people paid their respects to Mandela as his body was carried out of Pretoria towards Qunu.

Mandela was officially laid to rest Sunday morning.

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un Executes Uncle

North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un has overwhelmed the international community with nuclear tests and military standoffs with South Korea since he came to power two years ago. But in a move that has shocked the world, the DPRK leader executed his uncle on Thursday as part of a political purge.

Jang Song Thaek was believed to have been 67-years-old at the time of his death. Thaek was both Kim’s uncle and in charge of the DPRK’s economic development, making him the second most powerful man in the country.

Official reports announced that Thaek’s execution took place due to his ambitions to overthrow Kim and for failing to solve North Korea’s economic situation. Thaek had previous been purged from the government in 2004 but returned in 2006 to serve Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un’s father, as a top economic policymaker.

The country’s citizens, however, continue to starve, remnants of a famine that began under the former Kim’s rule. The Kim family attempted to distance themselves from the famine, denying any responsibility.

Experts claim that Thaek’s execution was Kim’s chosen method to send a statement to North Korean citizens and the global community. Political executions were commonplace in North Korea, but Thaek’s elevated status within the party came as a surprise as the most powerful officials are often spared.

Colorado High School Shooting Leaves One Student Wounded, Two Others With Minor Injuries

On the eve of the last year’s Newton shooting rampage, a student attending Littleton, Colorado’s Arapahoe High School opened fire at the school seeking revenge against a staff member before shooting himself.

Karl Halverson Pierson, 18, barged into the school and immediately wounded a 17-year-old student who remains in critical condition. Two other students were shot but managed to escape with minor injuries before Pierson killed himself, alert that police were quickly closing in.

Pierson was reportedly seeking a school faculty member as his main target, though he also intended to hurt multiple people along the way. The teacher left the building during Pierson’s attack to hopefully lure the shooter away from the school to minimize possible casualties.

Pierson had also planted two Molotov cocktails around the school, one of which exploded. Police are also investigating to determine if the shooting was timed to coincide with the Newton massacre’s one-year anniversary.

Momentum Shifts Towards Protestors in Ukraine’s Three-Week-Old Uprising

After three weeks of intense uprising both for and against Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, anti-government protestors are finally seeing some light as the Yanukovich suspended two key officials.

At the heart of the dispute is Ukraine’s cooperation with the EU. While Ukraine is not a member of the EU, plans recently surfaced between the country and supranational body that would have seen the establishment of Ukraine-EU trade and political ties. Yanukovich, however, backed out of the talks, setting off an intense backlash that saw 1 million Ukrainian citizens take to Kiev’s streets.

The main point of contention occurred on Nov 30 when Ukrainian security services were sent in to disperse protestors. But many citizens were violently taken down by stun grenades and batons, resulting in injuries and arrests. The Ukrainian security services were immediately condemned for their violent reaction.

In response, Yanukovich suspended Kiev city manager, Oleksandr Popoov and deputy national security chief, Volodomyr Sovkovych. There has so far been no more talks about the Ukraine-EU deals that set off the uprising, though the government seems to be heeding the protestors somewhat.

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