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The Canadian government has been forced to completely ban cod fishing in Atlantic Canada. Decades of overfishing by Canadian and foreign fleets, particularly by “factory trawlers” have reduced the number of cod to dangerously low levels. The ban hopes to give the cod a chance to eventually make a comeback, but that is expected to take up to fifty years or more. Early explorers used to joke that the cod were so plentiful one could walk upon the ocean on their backs. The decline of the cod is considered one of the world’s great manmade environmental disasters.
After the shuttle crash earlier this year, two new missions to Mars will be watched closely this summer. Two robot vehicles, called Martian Exploration Rovers (MERs) will be rocket-launched on two separate days sometime in June or July depending on weather and equipment readiness. The vehicles will take about eight months to reach Mars and then will spend 3 to 4 months roaming around gathering information about the “red planet.” Meanwhile, a group of Internet millionaires have formed a fund to finance plans for human missions to Mars.
Indians from the Amazon jungle have grouped together and formally launched a $1 billion lawsuit against U.S. oil giant Chevron/Texaco to pay for an environmental cleanup job. The Indians claim that Texaco, in an effort to save billions of dollars, opted to dump billions of gallons of toxic materials into unlined pits and rivers from 1972 to 1992. They accuse the pollution of destroying large areas of rainforest, contaminating crops, killing farm animals and raising the cases of cancer among the local people. Texaco claims it followed local rules at the time.
Recent efforts to end bloody conflicts in three countries here are meeting mixed results. Sierra Leone, optimistically, continues to recover from its decade-long civil war: one of Africa’s most brutal. UN peacekeepers have reduced their presence as the peace endures. In nearby Ivory Coast, recent ceasefires between rebel and government troops seem to be staying intact (with the help of French troops) but the country remains divided and on edge. Next door, Liberia is causing the most concern with its long civil war looking unlikely to end soon, despite a UN ban on weapon imports.
This island in the eastern Mediterranean (birthplace of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love) has been formally and tensely divided for 30 years between Turk and Greek inhabitants after the Turkish army invaded after a pro-Greece coup in 1974. UN peacekeepers have been there since the early 1960s to quell ethnic violence. In 2002, a new push began for a final peace settlement. While the politicians still argue, the ordinary people have been finding their own peace, taking advantage of a recent opening of the borders, making shopping and tourist trips into former enemy towns.
The world’s most populous country is still reeling from the SARS epidemic. The disease started in China and was passed on by infected travelers to other Asian countries as well as Canada. A late move by the Chinese authorities to deal with the outbreak likely led to thousands of preventable infections and deaths. Eventually the government got serious and did undertake major quarantine efforts. Many schools, factories and theatres were shut in infected areas. The 2003 Women’s Soccer World Cup had to be cancelled and moved out of China.
The U.S. military occupation of Iraq continues with small pockets of resistance keeping the American forces stationed there constantly on guard. The people of Iraq in general remain irritated, often humiliated, by the American presence in their homeland. Not surprisingly, the American efforts to install a new government in Baghdad have proven rather difficult with the U.S.-backed politicians lacking broad support from the Iraqi people. The American military has indicated they intend to stay on here for years.
The latest thorn in the side of the United States continues to play nuclear negotiating games. The North Korean leadership knows it wields a deadly missile strike potential over U.S. ally South Korea, realizing that threat means the U.S. would not be able to attack. North Korea claims the right to build nuclear weapons to counter the American nuclear threat. But at the same time diplomats are suggesting North Korea will disarm those weapons if the U.S. gives it billions of dollars and formally promises not to attack North Korea. Both sides are still talking it out.