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January 31, 1999 – The continuing, almost never-ending story of Kosovo and the entire region of the former Yugoslavia was in the news again. This time a hostage situation involving Albanian Rebels holding Yugoslav Army personnel. The rebels were refusing to release the hostages and Albania was losing patience. The fear was yet another escalation in an already civil-war torn part of the world. Senior Western diplomats were holding urgent talks with leaders of ethnic Albanian rebels to insure they carried out their promise of releasing the eight Yugoslav Army Soldiers who were going into their fifth day of captivity. Hopes were up that the hostages would be released today.
The economic crisis in Brazil was showing no signs of ending. The head of Brazil’s Central Bank was resigning, being replaced by its Director of Monetary policy. A new limit had been announced for the Brazilian currency against the U.S. Dollar. There was a massive outflow of foreign investment from Brazil, following an announcement the week before by the Governor of an important mining state that he intended to suspend debt payments to the Federal government. This was viewed as a make-or-brea moment for the world’s eighth largest economy. Unlike Russia or much of Asia, Brazil had so far managed to stave off strong pressure from the markets for a big devaluation of its currency, the Real. But on the heels of the Governors announcement, a state of panic had set in and the resignation of Gustavo Franco appeared to be an attempt to calm things down, but it was a risky strategy and only time would tell the outcome.
Another incident involving U.S. planes over the no-fly zone in Iraq. A Defense Department spokesman said American planes fired on Iraqi radar sites following a routine patrol in the exclusion zone over Northern Iraq. It was the third such incident in a week.
And reports from Australia that The Great Barrier Reef was dying and environmentalists were calling for immediate action before it was too late.
That’s a little of what happened, this January 31st in 1999 courtesy the BBC World Service’s program Newshour.
Some things change – and some things never change.