And now, here’s the (good) news

1994 was not all war, death, disaster, pestilence and poverty in the world.

There was also happiness, heroism, kindness – and hope.

Today, on the last day of the year, DERWIN PEREIRA presents some of the stories that gave us cause for cheer.

GIVING PEACE A CHANCE

* ISRAELIS and Palestinians worked out a peace plan for which their leaders received the Nobel Peace prize. Israeli troops quit Jericho and most of Gaza as Mr Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organisation took over.

* North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear-weapons programme in compliance with a landmark accord it signed with the United States. Under the agreement, Washington and Pyongyang will move steadily towards the establishment of full diplomatic relations.

* After 25 years of violence, the Irish Republican Army declared a truce, opening the way for Sinn Fein, its political wing, to hold peace talks with the British government.

* South Africans, after centuries of white domination, elected a black President. Mr Nelson Mandela’s inauguration completed one of the most remarkable political transformations any country has undergone.

KEEPING MARKETS OPEN

* REGIONAL growth triangles fostered greater economic co-operation. The Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore Growth Triangle, the Northern Growth Triangle and the Eastern Growth Triangle, gave an added impetus towards free trade in Asean.

* Former communist nations were hell-bent on making money. Besides China and Vietnam leading the pack, even Cuba’s DrFidel Castro welcomed foreign investors and opened up a free market for some farm products.

* The Uruguay Round of the Gatt was ratified by most members, paving the way for the creation of the World Trade Organisation which begins life from tomorrow. The 18 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (below) struck a deal on achieving free trade in the Asia-Pacific by the year 2020.

* Free-trade zones were all the rage. Hardly had the North American Free Trade Area taken effect than the Pacific Rim nations announced that they would be building one of their own.

GIFT OF LIFE

* A MAN who had been waiting years for a heart transplant finally got one – from his own daughter.

Mr Chester Szuber received the heart in August from his 22-year-old daughter, Patti, who died in an accident.

Mr Szuber, 58, of the Detroit suburb of Berkley, had been on a heart-transplant waiting list for nearly four years.

“It would be a joy to have Patti’s heart,” Mr Bob Szuber quoted his father as telling the family. “I’m sure down the road there will be some tough times,” he said, adding that his sister is “the happiest little angel in heaven”.

Ms Szuber’s liver and kidneys were donated to other recipients.

AGAINST ALL ODDS

* A PASSENGER in a small jet survived a 900-m fall after his ejector seat broke from its mounting and crashed through the canopy of the aircraft while it was flying upside down at 384 kmh.

Mr Des Moloney, 28, was able to open his damaged parachute partially. He landed on grass near a supermarket in Colchester, Essex, 72 km north-east of London.

Mr Moloney, who had fallen more than three times the height of Singapore’s tallest buildings, the 280-m-high UOB Plaza and OUB Centre, suffered cuts.

REUNIONS

* FORTY years ago, Madam Fatimah Ogon left her only son with her mother-in-law. That was the last time she saw him.

In August, Madam Fatimah, who is in her 60s, and Mr Abu Kassim Arshad, 45, were reunited at the studio of TV3, and wept openly, as did family members and friends. Their meeting was telecast live during the station’s Malaysia Today programme, which has helped to bring together many family members who had lost contact for years.

* Ms Erlinda Samalik, 22 (above), reunited with her eight-month-old son, Gener, who had been used as collateral for her US$325 (S$520) telephone bill.

Ms Samalik had called her husband, who works in the Middle East, using a telephone in the Philippine Defence Department. She handed the baby over as collateral to an employee of the department, which later sold the child to a couple for 15,000 pesos (S$900).

* Taiwan-born Briton Mark Williams, who was taken mysteriously to London in 1966 dressed as a girl with a wig, was reunited with his Taiwan family after 28 years.

After he was taken to London, Mr Williams was adopted by a British woman. The International Social Service helped him
find his biological mother in Taiwan.

* British police returned a baby girl to her parents two weeks after she was snatched from a hospital maternity ward by a bogus nurse. Abbie Humphries was found in a raid on a house near the hospital from where she was seized.

The abduction grabbed the nation’s attention as police mounted a huge operation to track down the woman who took Abbie just four hours after she was born on July 1. The bogus nurse used the pretext of taking the baby for a routine hearing test.

GREEN CHEER

* ATMOSPHERIC tests show the world is winning its battle against ozone depletion.

“There is strong evidence to show that growth rates of ozone-depleting substances in the lower atmosphere are slowing orhave stopped,” the Australian Environment Minister John Faulkner told a government-level meeting between Australia and New Zealand in April.

Ozone depletion has been most severe over the Antarctic, where a hole in the stratosphere’s ozone layer has appeared annually since the early 1980s.

“The hole in the ozone layer should start to shrink within a few years of that. By 2030, the situation should have returned to what it was in the late 1970s – in the days before the ozone hole appeared,” a government scientist Willem Bouler said.

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