TVNZ, NZ HERALD, FAIRFAX NZ NEWS, 3 NEWS (New Zealand)

Worldcrunch

WELLINGTON – New Zealand has become the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage.

Parliament voted 77-44 late Wednesday to amend the 1955 Marriage Act to describe marriage as a union of two people regardless of their sex, sexuality or how they choose to identify their gender.

People were queuing in the rain outside Parliament, reported broadcaster TVNZ, to witness the groundbreaking legislation.

The line has already started to get into parliament and watch a little history #MarriageEquality instagram.com/p/YMcGLFu7UT/

— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) April 17, 2013

Crowds are spilling onto K Rd footpaths as they gather to watch Louisa Wall's Marriage Equality Bill #MarriageEquality

— Morgan Tait (@morgtait) April 17, 2013

Member of Parliament Louisa Wall, who introduced the bill, started the session with an emotional speech, saying “In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal – it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person,” reported Fairfax NZ News.

“Having Parliament recognize and address injustices and unfairness matters to those affected by it. It’s the start of a healing process,” TVNZ quoted Wall as saying.

“Excluding a group in society from marriage is oppressive and unacceptable,” said Wall, who later thanked her partner for "sharing this journey." “There’s no justification for the prohibitions of the past based on religion, race or gender.”

“Nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill,” she concluded, receiving a standing ovation and rounds of applause.

Watch her full speech here.

The bill passed after months of emotional debate, parliamentary submissions and passionate protests from both sides of the issue, reported the New Zealand Herald.

MP Louisa Wall in Parliament on Wednesday:

So pleasing to see #marriageequality trending above #thatcherfuneral. It's what she wouldn't have wanted.

— Patrick Strudwick (@PatrickStrud) April 17, 2013

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Geopolitics

The New Iraq, Signs Of Hope Amid The Rubble And Reconstruction

How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future.

Street scene in Erbil, Iraq

Théophile Simon

BAGHDAD — With a vast office located at the top of a tower fiercely guarded by the army and a bell to call the staff, Khalid Hamza Abbas is obviously a powerful character, decked out in an impeccable suit. Abbas runs the Basra Oil Company (BOC), the national company responsible for the exploitation of the oil fields in the province of Basra, in the very south of Iraq, from which four million barrels of crude oil flow daily. It’s the equivalent of 4% of world demand and 65% of central government revenue concentrated in a region of only four million inhabitants.

As he explains the profit-sharing scheme between the world’s major oil companies and his public enterprise, the 50-year-old with thin glasses is suddenly stopped dead in his tracks by the ringing of his telephone. He tries a joke to mask his suddenly worried face: "I'm going to ask you to leave my office for a few moments. If I haven't called you back in 10 minutes, call the police."

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