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world timeline

December 2013

Dec 2  In the Central African Republic (CAR), attacks by Muslims against Christian villages have driven more than an estimated 460,000 from their homes, and more than a million are dependent on external aid. France's President Francois Hollande wants a Security Council resolution that would give UN backing for a beefed up African Union or UN force . While waiting for the Security Council, the French have decided to act, following talks with CAR's Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye. According to BBC News, some 200 French troops have arrived, and another 500 are being sent imminently.

Dec 3  In Russia a court of law convicts ballet dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko of organizing an acid attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre, Sergei Filin. Anger regarding selection for roles seems to have been a motive for the crime.

Dec 4  Iran lists seven Western oil companies it would like to return to work in its oil and gas fields should the lifting of international sanctions make this possible. It said it would outline investment terms in April, 2014.

Dec 4  The results of DNA traced from a bone of a 400,000 year-old hominid are published in the journal Nature. (Hominid is an ancestral grouping that includes chimpanzees, gorillas and humans.) Genetic analysis finds in the bone some of the DNA that appears in the Denisovan Neanderthal who lived 40,000 years ago in East Asia, thousands of miles from the site in Spain where the bone was discovered. Matthias Meyer at the Max Planck Institute says, "It's kind of strange, this piece of DNA going around Europe and Asia, and it pops up at two different times and places." (NewsHour, 4 Dec 2013.)

Dec 5  In Libya, an American teacher, Ronnie Smith, 33, has been shot dead while jogging in Benghazi's popular residential area. He was teaching chemistry in that city's international school.

Dec 5  In Thailand, protests have stopped in reverence for and celebration of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 86th birthday. The king makes a speech calling on his subjects to support each other for the sake of the country.

Dec 6  South Africa's Nelson Mandela died yesterday at the age of 95. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tells reporters, "Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity." Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom says she is "deeply saddened." South Africa is mourning its first black president. At Fox News, Bill O'Reilly tells Rick Santorum, "What he did for his people was stunning … He was a great man, but he was a communist." Wikipedia describes this as follows: "Although initially committed to non-violent protest, he [Mandela] co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party, leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government." Mandela was a supporter of Cuba's Fidel Castro and also Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. He did well in South Africa as champion of national unity, peace and conciliation between whites and blacks.

Dec 8  In Singapore, in an area known as Little India, a man was knocked down and killed by a private bus. According to BBC News about 400 people took to the streets, and they torched police cars. The police commissioner describes it as the first rioting in Singapore in more than 30 years. He adds that "It is not the Singapore way." In Singapore a person involved in a riot can be sentenced to seven years in prison plus caning.

Dec 9  Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tells the Washington Post two days ago that Libya has "a few ideological people who belong to some Islamic groups — a couple of hundred, not even thousands. They want to take over the country. They do not want the state to succeed... There are extremist Islamists who see this as a last opportunity for them. They are extremists who lost in many countries, but in Libya they want to establish a state."

Dec 11  In the US, law against banks gambling with depositor money is moved on by federal regulators. It's known as the Volcker Rule and designed to prevent another 2008-style financial crisis. The largest banks will be required to comply with the law by July 2015. USA Today reports that "Because banks have already shed most of their proprietary trading businesses in anticipation of the rule, the final version should have little new effect on bank profits." The Washington Post writes, "Two of the firms that have the most to lose from an aggressively enforced Volcker Rule gained on the day, with Goldman Sachs shares up 1.23 percent and Morgan Stanley shares up 1.25 percent."

Dec 11  In Syria's civil war, gains made by Islamist militants, many of them foreigners, result in Britain and the US suspending aide to the Free Syrian Army — but humanitarian assistance to the Syrians continues. BBC News reports that "Fighters from the Islamic Front, a new alliance of major rebel groups, took control of the bases at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey last week." The Islamists are giving more credibility to the Assad regime propaganda that it is fighting foreigners and terrorists.

Dec 12  An Islamist leader falls in Bangladesh. Abdul Quader Mullah, 65, known as the "Butcher of Mirpur, and a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, is hanged today in a jail in the capital, Dhaka. He is the first person put to death for massacres committed in the country's 1971 war for independence. Mullah went to his death saying he was proud to be a martyr for the cause of Islam. Crowds were in the streets demanding his execution, but the Arab News reports that "Islamists and opposition protesters armed with crude bombs and rocks clashed ineffectively with police in riots in several cities across the country." More executions associated with the 1971 massacre are scheduled.

Dec 13  On the 11th, the Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea executed the husband of Kim's aunt, Jang Song-thaek, until last week thought to be one of the country's most powerful men. Kim Jong-un inherited power in 2011, with Jang seen as the young man's mentor or regent, and since then the regime has been posturing extreme righteousness. A couple of days ago a military court tried Jang, and he was described as a "traitor for all ages," as having attempted to overthrow the state, as guilty of factionalism, corruption and dissolute behaviour. Officialdom describes Jang as having admitted his crimes. State television announces Jang's execution with the words "despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog."

Dec 13  In yesterday's annual state-of-the nation speech, Vladimir Putin said, "We do not aspire to be called some kind of superpower ... We do not infringe on anyone's interests, we do not force our patronage on anyone, or try to teach anyone how to live ... Nobody should have any illusion about the possibility of gaining military superiority over Russia. We will never allow this to happen." He also described his support for Russians conservative social values and criticized "genderless and infertile" policies in the West. In so many words he spoke up for Russia's traditional church, against same sex marriage and such, and he wants Russian men to father more babies.

Dec 15  On CNN, Kurt Campbell, former US Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, describes North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un as "a young upstart" and "a kid." Campbell speaks of assessments drawn from those who knew Kim when he was a student in Switzerland. There are descriptions of Kim as less than steady emotionally and with an elevated sense of his own importance and worthiness, in Campbell's words, with "delusions of grandeur." Campbell describes Kim's executed uncle Jang as having been an internationalist, most knowledgeable about the economics and politics of the country and the man the international community, including China, looked most to for interaction with North Korea.

Dec 15  Pope Francis says he is no communist, following criticism from conservative commentators in the United States. In an interview today for the newspaper La Stampa, he says, "Marxist ideology is wrong," and he adds, "But in my life I have met a lot of Marxists who are good people, so I do not feel offended." Francis said in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa published on Sunday.

Dec 16  In the United States, a divide between moderate Republicans and Tea Party Republicans has erupted into a war of words. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has verbally attacked those Republicans opposed to a budget compromise bill, and from Tea Party supporters to his right comes the claim that Boehner only pretends to be a conservative but is in fact a "tax and spend liberal," and they remind Boehner of their claim that they truly represent the American people.

Dec 16  In Bangladesh, people enraged over the execution of the Islamic leader Abdul Quader Mullah are reported as having burned homes and fought street battles in three days of protest. Twenty-five people are reported dead and dozens more injured. The protesters stand against the government and majority opinion and their protest is considered a hopeless tantrum.

Dec 17  Singapore announces its deportation of 53 foreign workers and its charges against 28 others who participated in the riots described on Dec 8 on this page. A photo on BBC News shows two of the riot participants in a police vehicle, sitting with heads deeply bowed as if shamed and regretful.

Dec 17  Occasionally a pregnancy involves a fetus that has no chance of life outside the womb. Today the NewsHour describes the results of El Salvador's 1997 law that allows no exceptions against any abortions. Included is a video of Roman Catholic Bishop of San Miguel saying, "We cannot accept any law that goes against life. It is not a question of faith and religion, but of humanity." Doctors in El Salvador are complaining. Protecting the life of the mother is also not an exception, and girls and young women are being charged with murder.

Dec 18  Iran has its version of no compromise with the enemy in the person of Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of Iran's leading conservative newspaper, Kayhan (Universe) – this from David Ignatius in the Washington Post. Ignatius interviewed him and reports: "Shariatmadari says frankly that he doesn't believe in compromise with the West." Shariatmadari sees the nuclear negotiations Iran is involved in as an internal struggle over its identity. According to Ignatius, "Shariatmadari thinks these Western temptations are poisonous." Ignatius describes Shariatmadari as a militant supporter of Khomeini's 1979 revolution, whose slogans Ignatius describes are fading on Tehran's walls, literally.

Dec 19  Saudi Arabia's grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh brands suicide bombers as "criminals." In February 2010 he denounced terrorism as un-Islamic and condemned the killing of civilians.

Dec 19  This past week the US Drug and Food Administration (FDA) has warned the public that chemicals in anti-bacterial soaps and body washes can be dangerous. The agency recommends using regular soap.

Dec 21  Thailand's main opposition Democratic Party stays with the anti-government protest movement's hositility to a democratic solution to a crisis that the movement has created. The Democratic Party announces it will boycott elections set for February. The head of Thailand's army warns that a civil war might develop.

Dec 22  Egyptian authorities jail three secular activists who had been prominent among those who organized the 2011 protests against Mubarak. The three were found guilty of violating a law instituted this past November that restricts demonstrations to those authorized by the government. The three are concerned about democracy. Some other pro-democracy Egyptians side with the military backed government.

Dec 23  Al Arabiya reports that In Egypt a split from the Muslim Brotherhood gives rise to a new political party that, according to its leader, Amr Amara, is abandoning the idea of a shariah-based Islamic state and will support civilian governance. The old Brotherhood organization extended beyond Egypt, while the politics of the new group will be limited to Egypt. The new group has met with Egypt's interim president, Adly Mansour, and Amara says "We want to return to working within state institutions." From the old Brotherhood comes complaints that the new group is an illusion manufactured by the military-backed security services to undermine the Islamist movement.

Dec 24  The United Arab Republic damages its image among many in the world as a court convicts six foreigners and two citizens for making a video that pokes fun at teenagers. The eight are found guilty of "defaming the UAE society's image abroad." According to BBC News, this is a law against the use of "information technology to criticise senior officials, argue for political reform or organise unlicensed demonstrations."

Dec 24  In the Egyptian city of Mansura a car-bomb attack on police headquarters kills 14 and wounds more than a 100. The public blames the Muslim Brotherhood, who appear for now to have failed at whatever contest for hearts and minds existed in the town. Al Arabiya reports residents shouting for the "execution of the Muslim Brotherhood." According to Al Arabiya, "At a nearby hospital, the floor of the emergency room was slick with blood as medics rushed in casualties."

Dec 24  In South Sudan a power conflict between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and ex-deputy Riek Machar, of Nuer ethnicity has escalated to massive killings and people fearing death because of their ethnicity. BBC News reports that, "One man in Juba said he was rounded up with 250 men and only 12 survived." Fighting that started in the capital, Juba, is reported as having spread throughout the country. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns that anyone responsible for human rights violations will be held to account.

Dec 25  In her Christmas message, Queen Elizabeth says, "We all need to get the balance right, between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock."

Dec 25  From Russia, Edward Snowden delivers an annual alternative Christmas message for Britain's Channel 4 television. He begins with a claim counter to President Obama having described NSA surveillance as limited. Snowden says that "our government is watching everything we do." He adds what some think is ridiculous exaggeration but others embrace enthusiastically: he says, "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves – an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought."

Dec 28 In Egypt, supporters of President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood rampage at the country's mail Islamic University. They were trying to make effective a student strike. They blocked entrances and, according to the police, students stormed several buildings on campus to "terrorize students and faculty," some fired shotguns into the air and there was a smashing of furniture. Photos have been published of campus buildings on fire. One student was killed. What was supposed to be accomplished by what appears to be the striking minority of students is unclear. To succeed strikes must be cohesive, not forced by a minority – like the Third World Strike at the UC Berkeley campus in 1969. The rampaging militants don't appear to be winning friends and influencing people, and a division among the Islamist students is clear.

Dec 30 On the NewsHour, Miles O'Brien describes research regarding our immune system killing cancer cells as it does other harmful cells, and he says cancer researchers "are extremely excited about this." (See Oct 14.) But, he adds, there is a funding problem: "Every researcher I talk to, every scientist I speak with speaks about what a dark time it is for federal funding for basic scientific research... A lot of people in Washington would say, well, why don't we have the private sector fund this? The private sector doesn't fund things if it doesn't see a good solid business plan."

Dec 31  Pew Research told us yesterday of a growing difference of opinion between Republicans and Democrats regarding evolution. Its research in 2009 had 39 percent of Republicans not believing in evolution and that number growing to 48 percent today. For Democrats those not believing in evolution has decreased from 30 percent in 2009 to 27 percent today. A difference in percentages between Republicans and Democrats that was 9 in 2009 has grown to 21.

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Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.