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December in Review, Part II

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Issue: 57 Section: Month in Review

January 1, 2009

December in Review, Part II

Israel bombs Gaza, Bush dodges shoes, OPEC cuts output

by Dominion Staff

Montréalers braved freezing temperatures to launch shoes at an image of George Bush in solidarity with the actions of Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi. Photo: Anirudh Koul CC2.0

The Israeli Air Forces bombed the Gaza Strip, killing over 320 people and wounding more than 1400. "Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre," said Hamas' leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal. "This is the harshest IDF assault on Gaza since the territory was captured during the Six-Day War in 1967," said Amos Harel, an Israeli analyst, who likened the bombings to "Israel's version of shock and awe." Egypt opened its border with Gaza to allow for wounded Palestinians to access medical facilities, but deployed at least 300 border guards to keep fleeing Palestinians from crossing into the country. The assault on Gaza, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, came after the end of a six month truce in Gaza, during which time Israeli intelligence planned the attacks. Israel announced that they would continue the attacks on Gaza. "If what we're doing in the air will not suffice we'll continue on the ground," said Ehud Barak, Israel's Minister of Defence. "Some of the Israeli missiles struck in densely populated areas as children were leaving school, and women rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children," reported the Los Angeles Times. Demonstrations against the attacks and in solidarity with the Palestinian people were held in across Canada, including Vancouver and Montreal.

Protest outside of New School University during the occupation of the school by students. Photo: Scott Kellum CC2.0

Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at President Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. "This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," yelled al-Zaidi while throwing his shoes. In Montréal and Toronto anti-war protestors hurled shoes in solidarity with al-Zaidi. Bombing in central Baghdad killed at least 18 people and wounded 50, and a car bomb exploded in Kadhimiya, in Northwestern Baghdad, killing 22 people and wounding 54.

In the US, President Bush began to push through a record number of 'midnight regulations' before the end of his term. On the list of changes include modifications to endangered species, air pollution, abortion, and gun control regulations. "Many of these are radical and appear to pay off big business allies of the Republican Party," according to The Guardian.

Activists in Greece took over a television station during a live broadcast as part of ongoing riots and demonstrations."The democratic regime in its peaceful facade doesn't kill an Alex every day, precisely because it kills thousands of Ahmets, Fatimas, Jorjes, Jin Tiaos and Benajirs: because it assassinates systematically, structurally and without remorse the entirety of the third world..." read a statement from students at the Athens School of Economics. "This is full-blooded revolutionary anarchism," wrote analyst Uri Gordon. Mobilizations against state murders and in solidarity with the Greek uprisings took place in over 40 cities worldwide.

Eight soldiers were found decapitated in the state of Guerrero in Mexico. It is believed that a drug cartel is responsible for the killings.

Russia announced it will quadruple its production of nuclear missiles over the next three years as part of a rearmament plan.

US drones dropped two missiles killing at least seven people in Pakistan's South-Waziristan region, bringing the total number of airstrikes by the US against Pakistan to almost 30 this year.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cut oil production by 2.2 million barrels a day. The price of light, sweet crude oil hit a low of $36.63 a barrel.

The price of cocoa soared to $3265 a tonne, a 23 year high.

Stephen Harper appointed 18 new senators, including former Olympic skiier Nancy Greene Raine, former journalist Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, a Conservative booster and national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal People, and a host of Conservative loyalists. "These 18 patronage appointments show that when it comes to job creation, Mr. Harper cares more about rewarding his Conservative friends than creating jobs for Canadians," said NDP leader Jack Layton. The new appointments are expected to cost Canadian taxpayers $6 million.

Peer-reviewed, scientific data put forward about the ecological damage caused by the tar sands was dismissed as propaganda by the government of Alberta and industry. Alberta's Minister of Culture and Community Spirit Lindsay Blackett stated that the government would reconsider funding films critical of the tar sands. “We think this amounts to a suggestion of political censorship or the need for political censorship of arts funding, which is absolutely not what is needed,” said a spokesperson from the Council of Canadians.

Sunoco Inc. sought a partner in order to acquire more refining capacity in the Alberta tar sands. The announcement drew the ire of anti-tar sands activists, who demanded that the Canadian Boreal Institute, which receives funding from the Pew Foundation (itself set up by Sunoco Inc.) step out of their role of "blunting real resistance" with their tar sands campaign.

Petro-Canada's 13-month lockout of Montreal refinery workers ended with wage increases, bonuses and profit sharing measure from the former crown corporation. The union local had recently launched a Petro-Canada boycott campaign.

Thousands of bone fragments were discovered in a mass grave in what was formerly a secret detention centre in Argentina. The remains are of victims of the Dirty War in Argentina, which took place from about 1976 to 1983.

Ottawa diplomat Robert Fowler and his aide Louis Guay were kidnapped in Niger hours after they visited a gold mine owned by Montréal based Semafo Inc. The government of Niger stated that the mine visit was "of a 'private' nature, and was unconnected to the men's UN work," contradicting the United Nations, which said that the Fowler and Guay were on an official visit. It is still not known who the kidnappers are. Armed conflict in Niger has increased following the discovery of mineral resources, especially gold and uranium.

Amnesty International repeated its call for a moratorium on the use of Tasers. More than 50 deaths in the US have been connected to the use of Tasers.

Inuit leader Mary Simon denounced the effects of climate change on Arctic peoples. "The scientific predictions for what we can expect in the Arctic region in the not so distant future are alarming. No, 'alarming' is not a strong enough word; 'terrifying' is better suited for the hunter who is lost on shifting ice and the homeowner whose house is splitting in half as the foundation sinks," she said.

In what appears to be a spontaneous militant movement against Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company, 200 to 400 people invaded Barrick's North Mara Gold Mine this week in the Tarime District of Tanzania, destroying equipment worth $15 million, while some 2,000 people kept watch from the top of the pit. According to a Barrick public relations officer, "The intruders stoned the security personnel relentlessly until they overpowered them. The guards abandoned their posts and retreated to safety." Barrick implied that "high levels of crime" were the cause of the recent outbreak, a theory contradicted by some reports. "Ongoing conflict between the mine and local communities have created a climate of fear for those who live nearby. ... There have been several deadly confrontations in the area... During police operations [a family] scatters in fear to hide in the bush, 'like fugitives', for weeks at a time waiting for the situation to calm down," said Allan Cedillo Lissner, a photojournalist who recently documented life near the North Mara mine.

The US government announced that they will send an additional 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan in the summer of 2009. The deployment would nearly double the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

A US war resister who has been living in Nanaimo for over four years was granted a one month reprieve during which to build his legal case against being deported to the US. Immigration Canada denied Clifford Cornell's application for refugee status, his application to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and his pre-residence assessment. He was initially scheduled to be deported on December 24th.

More than 100 scholars, including Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Greg Grandin, signed an open letter to the board of directors of Human Rights Watch, blasting their most recent report on Venezuela. "We write to call your attention to a report published by Human Rights Watch that does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility. The document, A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela, appears to be a politically motivated essay rather than a human rights report," reads the letter.

Wal-Mart announced it would appeal a decision by the Quebec Labour Board allowing employees at the chain's Hull, QC, store to unionize.

Television network CBS revealed that 31.5 million people living in the US received food stamps in the month of September. That's up two million from August 2008, and is the equivalent of about one out of every ten citizens.

DeBeers announced that they would close their Snap Lake, NWT, diamond mine for ten weeks in 2009. Workers will not be paid during the closure. Tahera Diamond Corporation stopped all operations at their diamond mine in Nunavut, forcing the federal government to step in and take responsibility for the mine. The closures are a result of a downturn in the diamond industry world-wide.

A man dressed as Santa Claus killed nine people at a Christmas party in Los Angeles. He later took his own life.

The Guardian revealed that England's Attorney General is "considering asking the courts to clamp down on high-profile, direct-action protests on issues such as climate change." The move by the AG follows on the heels of the acquittal of six protestors who participated in direct action at the Kingsnorth II coal-fired power plant in Kent.

Barack Obama chose anti-gay Reverend Rick Warren to give the invocation speech at his swearing in ceremony. Warren compared "homosexuality to incest and pedophilia" in a recent interview, and supports Prop 8, the passage of which would ban gay marriage in California.

EnCana's sour gas pipelines north of Fort St. John, BC, were vandalized. This is the second time since October that EnCana's pipelines have been targeted by vandals.

The military seized power in Guinea after the death of President Lansana Conte, who ruled the country for 24 years.

Explosions in an apartment building in southern Ukraine, likely caused by a gas cannister, killed 19 people. Twenty four people are still missing.

Indigenous people in Ecuador took to the streets near the southern city of Cuenca to protest against the country's new mining law. "It's not only for environmental reasons, our opposition is to the model of the law," said Indigenous leader Humberto Cholango.

The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries disclosed that mercenaries are playing "an increasingly broad role" throughout Latin America. There are at least 800 US mercenaries in Colombia working under Plan Colombia who enjoy diplomatic immunity. There are also approximately 3,000 Latin American mercenaries serving in Iraq.

Miguel Ángel Ospina Boscán, a young Wayúu man, was assassinated in Wounmaikat, Maikou (Guajira), Colombia. His name appeared on a death list written by the Aguilas Negras, a reconfiguration of the AUC paramilitary group. Fifteen Wayúu people have been assassinated or disappeared so far this year. In Northern Cauca, the Colombian army assassinated Edwin Legarda, a Nasa man, who was driving in the vehicle of the Indigenous councils of Cauca (CRIC). The vehicle he was driving was ambushed from all sides by the Colombian army. Many think that the attack was targeted against Legarda's partner Ayda Quilcué, a high profile indigenous leader.

Students at New York City's New School staged a sit-in to reclaim student space and protest against the school's president, Bob Kerrey. The occupation faced a crackdown by police, but won a number of concessions from the New School's administration.

More than 80 students at York University occupied the President's Office in support of the ongoing strike by CUPE 3903. Classes were cancelled for the remainder of 2008.

People across Canada experienced one of the harshest winters in memory. At least two homeless people died due to the weather: a homeless woman burned to death while trying to light a fire to keep warm in Vancouver, and a homeless man froze to death on the streets of Montréal. A woman was found alive after being buried for three days in a snow drift in Ancaster, outside of Toronto.

Toronto film-maker Rob Spence, who wears a prosthetic eye and calls himself the "eyeborg guy," announced that he will install a wireless video camera inside the prosthetic, giving him the ability to make movies by just looking around.

Conspicuous consumption went out of style, as luxury retailers experienced a major drop in sales.

A fire at an animal shelter in Oshawa killed more than one hundred cats. It is believed that the fire was started by mice, who chewed through the electrical system. "It's unfortunate and ironic that mice caused the fire that killed the cats," said a spokesperson for the Toronto Humane Society.

A 13-metre high festive goat made of metal and straw was burned down in Gavle, Sweden, for the 23rd time since it was first displayed in 1966. In 2005, it was set alight by two arsonists dressed as Father Christmas and the Gingerbread Man.

We are now producing our Month in Review in collaboration with CKUT's news collective, an independent campus community news source that you can listen to at 90.3 fm in Montréal or online at ckut.ca.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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