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The International Maritime Bureau released its annual report on piracy in early January, noting that pirate attacks rose by 10 percent globally in 2007, with 269 attacks (up from 239 in 2006). Indonesia remained the world’s most dangerous area, with 43 attacks last year, but Somalia and Nigeria saw significant increases in pirate activity last year, with 42 attacks off the Nigerian coast (up from 12 in 2006) and 31 off the Somali coast (up from 10 in 2006).

Only 54 US military personnel—out of more than 600 implicated in detainee abuse cases in Iraq and elsewhere in the war on terror—have been convicted by court martial. Of those convicted, 40 have served prison time.

In early January the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation reached a settlement with the National Council of Arab Americans and the Answer Coalition two groups who had been denied a permit in 2004 to hold a rally on Central Park’s Great Lawn, just before the Republican National Convention. The department agreed to allow larger rallies in the park, backing away from former restrictions that the city said were designed to protect the lawn but which many viewed as a de facto stifling of dissent.

Forty-five people were burned to death on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria, when fuel they were siphoning from a pipeline caught fire. Although Nigeria is Africa’s top exporter of crude oil, nine out of ten people in the country live on less than $2 a day.

Visits to Sweden’s museums declined in 2007 by nearly 20 percent after the government ended the longstanding free admissions policy at the nation’s 19 national museums.

The International Association of Athletics Federations ruled on January 14 that Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee sprinter from South Africa, will not be eligible for the Olympics. After an independent study, the IAAF stated that Pistorius’s carbon fiber prosthetics, j-shaped blades known as Cheetahs, “should be considered as technical aids which give him an advantage over other athletes.”

The Department of the Interior released a preliminary environmental review of the $1 billion Cape Wind Project, which would site 130 wind turbines over 24 miles of Nantucket Sound five miles off Cape Cod, and found that it would pose no major ecological risks. The plan to build the nation’s first offshore wind farm is opposed by many homeowners on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard.

On January 10, Jason M. Fife of Hunker, Pennsylvania was sentenced to probation and community service for mailing a frozen cow’s head to his wife’s lover. Henry Hiles, Fife’s lawyer said at the trial that Fife “understands that in a civilized society a person cannot send a severed cow’s head to anybody.”

Nina Olson, the Internal Revenue Service’s national taxpayer advocate, told Congress on January 9 that the use of private debt collectors is costing more than the money it brings in. Olson said that if Congress authorized more money for IRS staff and equipment, the agency could bring in $20 for each dollar of funding it receives. Congressional Republicans and the Bush administration favor private debt collection and oppose expansion of IRS enforcement.

Islam A. Karimov, president of Uzbekistan, was sworn in for a third seven-year term on January 16 in the capital Tashkent, despite a constitutional two-term limit. Karimov won 88 percent of the votes cast in the December 23 election, beating three candidates who supported his re-election. Uzbekistan, a
country noted for limited human rights and its authoritarian character, was a
member of the “Coalition of the Willing” the US formed to liberate Iraq.

Sources: Associated Press; Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project; New York Times; Reuters; Agence France-Presse; New York Times; Reuters; New York Times; Associated Press; Associated Press.

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