Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Morning News Roundup (02 January)

Top Story: French marchers say 'non' to 2007
  • Hundreds of protesters in France have rung in the New Year by holding a light-hearted march against it. Parodying the French readiness to say "non", the demonstrators in the western city of Nantes waved banners reading: "No to 2007" and "Now is better!"
    The tension mounted as the minutes ticked away towards midnight - but the arrival of 2007 did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. The protesters began to chant: "No to 2008!" They vowed to stage a similar protest on 31 December 2007 on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris. [BBC]

Now onto the real news, which certainly isn't so lighthearted...

Iraq's (Decidedly Uncivil) Civil War
  • 16,723. The number of Iraqis who died violent deaths in 2006, according to Iraqi authorities. “The number of Iraqi civilians killed in political violence hit a record high in December. [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • John "Fuzzy" Burns of the NYTimes writes about the chaos surrounding the hanging of Saddam Hussein:
    ...as evidenced in video recordings made just before Mr. Hussein fell through the gallows trapdoor at 6:10 a.m. on Saturday. A new video that appeared on the Internet late Saturday, apparently made by a witness with a camera cellphone, underscored the unruly, mocking atmosphere in the execution chamber.

    This continued, on the video, through the actual hanging itself, with a shout of “The tyrant has fallen! May God curse him!” as Mr. Hussein hung lifeless, his neck snapped back and his glassy eyes open.

    The cacophony from those gathered before the gallows included a shout of “Go to hell!” as the former ruler stood with the noose around his neck in the final moments, and his riposte, barely audible above the bedlam, which included the words “gallows of shame.” It continued despite appeals from an official-sounding voice, possibly Munir Haddad, the judge who presided at the hanging, saying, “Please no! The man is about to die.”

    The Shiites who predominated at the hanging began a refrain at one point of “Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!”— the name of a volatile cleric whose private militia has spawned death squads that have made an indiscriminate industry of killing Sunnis — appending it to a Muslim imprecation for blessings on the Prophet Muhammad. “Moktada,” Mr. Hussein replied, smiling contemptuously. “Is this how real men behave?”

    American officials in Iraq have been reluctant to say much publicly about the pell-mell nature of the hanging, apparently fearful of provoking recriminations in Washington, where the Bush administration adopted a hands-off posture, saying the timing of the execution was Iraq’s to decide.

    While privately incensed at the dead-of-night rush to the gallows, the Americans here have been caught in the double bind that has ensnared them over much else about the Maliki government — frustrated at what they call the government’s failure to recognize its destructive behavior, but reluctant to speak out, or sometimes to act, for fear of undermining Mr. Maliki and worsening the situation.

  • We can't even get a hanging right. With all of the world watching, we yet again were the primary authors of a violent, uncivilized, and primitive act which -- no matter how justified in some ultimate moral sense -- was carried out in the most thuggish, wretched, inept, and (we now learn) patently illegal manner.

    It really is striking, and a potent sign of just how absurd is our ongoing occupation, that the "Iraqi Government" which we are fighting to empower could not even conduct this execution with a pretense of legality or concern for civilized norms -- the executioners were not wearing uniforms but leather jackets and murderers' masks, conducting themselves not as disciplined law enforcement officers but as what they are (death squad members and sectarian street thugs). [Glenn Greenwald]

  • Hundreds of Sunni Arabs gathered to show their anger and grief for Saddam Hussein on Tuesday as the Iraqi government promised an investigation into illicitly filmed footage of Shi'ite officials taunting him on the gallows.
    Several hundred people marched through the northern city of Mosul carrying portraits of Saddam and banners proclaiming him a martyr and a hero. Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad and other towns have seen similar demonstrations since Saturday.

    The rapid execution, just four days after the failure of an appeal, boosted Maliki's fragile authority among his fractious Shi'ite supporters but angered many Sunnis. The timing, on the first day of the Eid al-Adha holiday, has caused particular outrage, along with the video. [WaPo]

BushCo's Wars
  • The number of U.S. service members killed in Iraq since the war began in 2003 reached 3,000 on Sunday, a symbolic milestone at a time when the Bush administration is rethinking its strategy for the increasingly violent conflict.
    "What you see is the U.S. deeply involved in this fight against an insurrection and increasingly trying to bring order to a low-level civil war," Anthony H. Cordesman, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said by telephone in Washington. "There's no way you can do that with 140,000 troops in a country of 27 million without having casualties."

    He added: "This pace of casualties is likely to go on until we can change or find a new approach." [WaPo]

Climate Crisis
  • A huge Canadian ice shelf 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the North Pole has disintegrated, leaving a large floating island of ice stranded 30 miles (48 kilometers) offshore, scientists reported yesterday.

    The entire 25.5-square-mile (66-square-kilometer) Ayles Ice Shelf broke free from the northern coast of Ellesmere Island on August 13, 2005 (map of Canada).
    The breakup was spotted on satellite photos shortly after it occurred, but scientists have held back until now to make an announcement. "We've spent the last year reconstructing exactly what happened," said Luke Copland, a geographer with the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada.

    Sixteen months of study led Copland and colleagues to the conclusion that several factors were at work, mostly related to global warming. [National Geographic]

  • A combination of global warming and the El Niño weather system is set to make 2007 the warmest year on record with far-reaching consequences for the planet, one of Britain's leading climate experts has warned.
    Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, said: "El Niño makes the world warmer and we already have a warming trend that is increasing global temperatures by one to two tenths of a degrees celsius per decade. Together, they should make 2007 warmer than last year and it may even make the next 12 months the warmest year on record." [The Independent]

  • One of the world's leading experts on climate change -- Dr James Hansen, director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies -- has warned that the Earth is being turned into a "different planet" because of the continuing increase in man-made emissions of greenhouse gases. "We just cannot burn all the fossil fuels in the ground. If we do, we will end up with a different planet. I mean a planet with no ice in the Arctic, and a planet where warming is so large that it's going to have a large effect in terms of sea level rises and the extinction of species." [The Independent]

Big Blue Marble
  • The euro struck a near three-week high against the dollar and all-time peaks against the yen and Swiss franc in European trade. The euro hit as high as 1.3288 dollars in early European exchanges on Tuesday, the highest point since December 13, 2006. During the course of 2006, the euro gained 11.4 percent against the dollar, 12.0 percent against the yen and 2.7 percent against the Swiss franc. [AFP]

  • The United Arab Emirates announced last week that by September, it will move 8 percent of its foreign exchange holdings from dollars to euros. The amount of money in this case is relatively small—a shift of around $2 billion. Most of the dollars in the Middle East are held not by central banks, but by state-owned investment firms. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, for instance, manages $500 billion. But the message the UAE move sends is clear: the dollar is still weak and it's better to diversify. Foreign Policy's Passport]

Happy News
  • The early reviews are mostly positive at the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood where the menu changed on Christmas Eve to cut unhealthy trans fats from many junk food favorites.

    Twelve-year-old Jack Xu noticed something different about his french fry. "It tastes drier and not too salty," he said, then added: "I still like it." [HappyNews.com]

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