World Peace Update
I'm not sure why we all insist upon remaining jammed in those years of our lives where we could barely wipe our own asses or hold our drinks, but to me, it's still September that feels like the beginning of each year and not January, don't you think? September marks the beginning of yet another school year, the football season and, so it seems, riot season too. It's really no wonder that students went on the rampage this week in Canada and Sri Lanka; it's Freshers' Week, shit gets cray.
Let's look at some of the lengths the world went to in order to harm itself in the last seven days.
Violence flared once again in Northern Ireland, as loyalists and republicans came together when Catholics marched past a Protestant Orange Order house on Sunday. It began with the two sides hurling stones and bottles at each other, but then this police arrived and seemingly united the warring parties for a brief and heartwarming moment, with 47 cops ending up in hospital.
Ten hours after it all kicked off, the police thought that the situation had been brought under control. But on Monday night, 300 loyalists gathered at Carlisle Circus to throw bricks, fireworks and petrol bombs at the police who fought back with water cannons and baton rounds. Those clashes brought the number of injured police up to 60. Speaking to the BBC, Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said: "The community of North Belfast needs to see a resolution to this issue now, collectively, we cannot afford to wait and we cannot have night after night of violence on our streets."
With so many police injured, the PSNI will need to make sure they have some guys left to monitor the centenary Ulster Covenant parade the Orange Order have planned for the end of the month. It looks like it could turn into another blood-themed fancy dress party, and I can't wait!
If you don't count its pornstar serial killers, it seems like the only way Canada can make international news headlines these days is to make its students so angry that they start rioting. The increasingly authoritarian regime of Jean Charest has been attracting the ire of Quebec University students all summer. They were all set to return to class last week after months of protests against tuition fee hikes, and going back to school with them was Bill 78, a new law that bans protests at universities and gives large fines to people interfering with classes.
As expected, the bill was largely ignored, with demonstrators entering the Univeristy of Montreal looking to shut down classes. This led to clashes with riot police who, at this point, were basically occupying the university. The protest disrupted 49 classes, while the new law brought in 11 arrests. It should be noted here that after UN scrutiny the bill has landed Canada on the human rights watch list, which isn't exactly what the governing Liberal party needs in the run up to an election.
Sticking with students with boiling blood, we cross over to Sri Lanka, where people are calling for their universities to be re-opened.
After the government shut down 13 of the 15 state-funded universities in reaction to a strike by academics, who complained of interference in university life and under-funding, 3,000 students gathered in the capital Columbo last Wednesday to protest.
Unfortunately, their march was halted by Sri Lanka's Special Task Force riot squad, who used water cannons and tear gas to clear the crowds. Fortunately, no students were injured and the protests are set to continue. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but you should know that in Sri Lanka, it was the student movement that sparked the violent Tamil insurgency and bloody uprisings of the 1970s and 80s. If I were the Sri Lankan government I'd re-open those universities; at the very worst, people would get educated.
In the wake of Kofi Annan's resignation from his post as special envoy to Syria for the UN/Arab League, a new guy has now been put in charge and already disappointed everyone. Speaking on the subject of a peaceful diplomatic resolution, Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi said: "I know how difficult it is – how nearly impossible. I can't say impossible – nearly impossible. People are already saying: 'People are dying and what are you doing?' And we are not doing much. That in itself is a terrible weight."
It's not like the international community or any of the two sides in the conflict don't already know that. The rebel Free Syrian Army group have made clear their unwillingness to give up until President Assad and his regime are gone, and vice versa. Peace is impossible at this point.
In some good news for the opposition, the FSA were able to shoot down a second fighter jet, this time in the northern province of Idlib. They were able to capture the incident on camera and film the pilots parachuting to (relative) safety. Till now, the FSA have found it hard to combat the regime's air superiority, but they're slowly figuring out ways of bringing the jets down. What remains to be seen is whether that will be by anti-aircraft fire or the stinger missiles that are rumoured to have made their way into the country.
I know how depressing this column is, so for a change I thought I'd end on a high note. This weekend, the usually serene Isle of Wight had to deal with a menace so violently drunk that police had to call the riot squad in. According to the local media, the swan – apparently named "Dave" – was angry at cuts made by the local Tory government that have slowed the cleaning frequency of the lakes and waterways that he inhabits on the Isle.
"Dave says that since the Island council took on stinging austerity measures he’s swallowing an average of two condoms a week, and has developed a mild addiction to heroin from the number of needles he’s sat on. And was overheard chanting; 'Death to Andrew Turner' and; 'Tory councillors should be shot'."
Drop by next week to see if any more animals try to collapse the system.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston