Israel’s latest move against Gaza may have begun before it launched an airstrike on Nov. 14 that killed Hamas commander Ahmad Jabari. In October when flames destroyed an arms factory in Sudan, Sudanese officials blamed it on an Israeli airstrike. That now appears likely, as evidence suggests Sudan has been working with Iran to manufacture and supply Hamas with sophisticated rockets using the weapons factory in Khartoum.
“To put it simply, it was Iranian-made Fajr-5s, imported via Sudan, that prompted this war,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Washington Free Beacon. “Iran’s fingerprints are all over this.”
That scenario confronts Israel with a new reality: Increasingly sophisticated missiles from Iran are making their way to Gaza via its recently relaxed border with Egypt.
Iranians reportedly provided Hamas militants in Gaza with about 100 Fajr-5 rockets—each capable of traveling nearly 50 miles, putting both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv within reach. Last month for the first time Hamas targeted Tel Aviv suburbs with missile launches, prompting Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to launch airstrikes and threaten a ground attack on Gaza, the Palestinian area at its southern border controlled by Hamas.
The IDF last month launched over 1,000 air assaults on targets in Gaza in an eight-day conflict that left over 130 Palestinians and five Israelis dead. A Nov. 21 ceasefire compelled both sides to stop launching attacks, and set a 90–day timetable for a more permanent agreement.
A Pakistani juvenile court judge on Nov. 20 dropped charges against Rimsha Masih, the 14-year-old girl accused of blasphemy last August for desecrating Islamic texts. At one time officials held Masih in a maximum security prison for weeks and scheduled her to be tried in an adult court, where punishment could be life imprisonment or death. But the ruling judge cited “fake allegations” brought against Masih, and said they “should not be leveled against any Muslim or non-Muslim.” The imam who accused Masih of blasphemy may be tried for making a false accusation, observers said.
“This is the first case of its kind when a person charged under the strict blasphemy laws is exonerated from the accusation,” said Naveed Chaudhry, a lawyer for Masih.
Safety violations that included non-working fire extinguishers and locked emergency exits contributed to a garment factory blaze in Bangladesh on Nov. 24 that killed 120 people. Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of ready-made clothing in the world, after China. The factory has produced clothing for Wal-Mart, French discount chain Carrefour, and IKEA. But as the industry has exploded—from 47 garment factories in 1982 to more than 4,000 today—officials have ignored reports of poor conditions and low pay that make it a dangerous trade: Since 2006 more than 300 people in Bangladesh have died in garment factory fires.
Fighting in Congo
Citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo hunkered down as rebel forces gained ground against the government’s disorganized army in the impoverished nation’s worst fighting since July.
The rebel M23 Movement, at war with the Congolese government since April, on Nov. 20 took control of Goma, a regional capital along the country’s eastern border. Some residents cheered the rebels as liberators, but others privately admitted residents fear them.
The M23 rebels, believed to be funded by neighboring Rwanda, accuse Congolese leaders of breaking a March 23, 2009, peace agreement and say they won’t retreat until the government agrees to negotiate with them. Near the end of November, African leaders tried to broker a peace deal while the two armies maneuvered troops in preparation for further fighting. Locals accuse both rebel and government soldiers of killing, looting, and raping during a war that has displaced half a million people this year. According to World Relief, a group that has worked in Goma since 2001, the conflict has led to 4 million deaths in the last eight years.
Risking young men
U.S. health officials say the spread of the AIDS virus is now heavily concentrated in a tiny segment of the population: young men who have sex with other males. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 27 released new numbers showing three-fourths of new infections in the 13-to-24 age group are from homosexual practice, with only one-quarter from injecting drugs or heterosexual sex. It also said blacks represent more than half of new infections in youths.
Overall, new U.S. HIV infections have held steady at around 50,000 annually. About 12,000 are in teens and young adults, and most youth with HIV haven’t been tested.
The three major greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—reached record levels in the atmosphere in 2011, the World Meteorological Organization reported. While the UN body claimed rising CO2 and temperatures would impact “all aspects of life on Earth,” it failed to include a proper global perspective: China, a longtime obstacle to UN emission reduction goals, was by far the largest carbon emitter in 2011, and increased its output 9 percent. By contrast, emissions fell 2 percent to 3 percent in the United States and Europe.
Sunrise Bakery in Anchorage received its last shipment of supplies on Nov. 26 to turn out Hostess Twinkies, Wonder bread, and other goods ahead of an expected closure. The renowned nationwide snack food maker got an OK from a bankruptcy judge last month to shut down after failing to reach agreement to end a strike by its bakers union. The Anchorage bakery has baked, delivered, and sold dozens of Hostess products since 1962, according to local news reports.
With the end of Hostess products in sight, fans began to stock up on eBay, where a lot of 10 boxes of Twinkies and cupcakes were going for $40 and up. On Nov. 27, one seller started bidding on a 10-box lot at $2,500.
Church and state
A vote to allow women to serve as bishops in the Church of England failed on Nov. 20 to win the needed two-thirds majority in the church’s General Synod. Female bishops already are allowed in the United States, Canada, and Australia, and the change was supported by both the outgoing archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and his incoming, more conservative successor, Justin Welby. Despite the overwhelming rejection by Anglican bishops, clergy, and laity, British Prime Minister David Cameron scolded the Church to “get with the program” on female bishops and said he was made “very sad” by the vote. Cameron plans to push legalizing gay marriage in Great Britain early in 2013, also over the objections of the Church of England.
U.S. abortion rate falls
Gathering data from 43 states and two cities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found both the number and rate of abortions fell 5 percent in 2009—the largest one-year reduction during a decade of surveillance. Although the decline may be due to several factors, it challenges earlier predictions that an economic downturn could raise the abortion rate.
Some researchers attributed the decline to the increased use of long-lasting contraceptives, like intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants. Growing use of emergency contraceptives like the morning-after pill—which can induce an abortion within 72 hours of sex—also complicate the picture: Since nonprescription use of abortifacient drugs (Plan B can be purchased over the counter by women 17 and older) aren’t included in the CDC’s abortion statistics, the real rate of abortion is higher than the agency suggests.
Some decline could be due to shifting attitudes and growing pro-life activism, however. The past decade has seen the rise of pro-life movements such as 40 Days for Life, and an increase in crisis pregnancy centers like the 1,100 affiliated with Care Net. This year Gallup found only two out of five Americans described themselves as pro-abortion—a record low for the polling group.