World News in Brief

High Energy Debate Waged Between Diplomats

EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solano left Tehran last week disappointed after top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili refused to budge on uranium enrichment provisions. Five hours of talks saw Jalili quote the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty several times, insisting that Iran has the right to its reactors as per IAEA regulations. While oil continues to hover near $100/barrel and massive shipments of petroleum continue to pass through the Straight of Hormuz daily, Iranian high-ups entreaty Western policymakers to regard their nuclear program as nothing more than the last-gasp push of an energy-starved nation to save itself.

The Dollar Heads South

American financial experts continue to worry about the plummeting US dollar, especially in the middle of a credit crunch and the subprime mortgage calamity. Amidst talks that the Fed will raise interest rates even as recession looms, some analysts are predicting that the dollar, down 24% since 2002 against a trade-weighted basket of currencies, will soon be replaced by the Euro as the world’s benchmark. In Washington, it seems like the news is hitting home in a big way—Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee announced last week to the press that a bill is currently being drafted to rename the tender the “US Peso.”

Jungle Operatives Return to Cameroon

Four gorillas were recently returned to their home in the Limbe Wildlife Sanctuary in southwest Cameroon after an 18-hour layover in Johannesburg. All six-years old and weighing about 240 pounds, the four animals were illegally smuggled into Taiping Zoo in Malaysia early in 2002. Days ago, President Paul Biya made a public statement expressing gratification to the activists who organized for the release. Even so, as a student of history, Biya plans to keep a close eye on the four primates, knowing well that gorilla movements within Africa rarely ever turn out favorably for incumbent politicians.

I Can Do Anything You Can Do Better

In a major document released on November 30, Pope Benedict XVI declared that atheism is responsible for some of the greatest forms of cruelty known to man. Citing Lenin’s Soviet Union, the Pope insisted that when transcendent truth and salvation are removed from a culture, brash self-interest ensues. Whether or not people are indeed more narcissistic as atheists, author Christopher Hitchens is seeking an out-of-court copyright infringement settlement from Benedict. Pointing to his best-selling polemic God Is Not Great, Hitchens claims that the Pope’s statements impinge on his intellectual territory, depriving him of the full profits to which he is entitled.

**Landmark Fatwa in Khartoum **

An international crisis precipitated in Khartoum last week when thousands of Sudanese Muslims demanded for the execution of Gillian Gibbons, a 54-year-old Liverpudlian school teacher. In mid-November, Gibbons allowed her class to name a stuffed bear “Muhammad”, sparking mass riots and anger in the African capital. Now released and safe back in her native England, Gibbons insists that she did indeed enjoy her stay despite all the hubbub. Serving a crucial role in securing the teacher’s safe passage back home, Sudanese president Omar Bashir continues to keep on cordial terms with Gibbons: In a phone call Tuesday, he made sure to clarify that she may return any time she pleases for her lashing.

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