World Peace Update
Happy new year, guys! World Peace Update is back and looking forward to another year of watching us try to destroy ourselves. Humanity is already making decent inroads into the task at hand – this week's menagerie of malcontents want us all to know that it's OK to have arguments about where you think the lines should be on maps, riot over the price of your food shopping and shoot at police because you don't like a flag.
Oh, and then there's our old pal Syria. Best get started, I guess.
The situation in Northern Ireland at the start of 2013 is similar to how it was at the end of 2012; namely there are people in the centre of Belfast rioting over the city council's decision to only fly the Union Jack 17 times a year instead of every day.
The fighting between police and protesters may have slowed and the roadblocks may have been less busy as Christmas drew nearer, but once that fucking dreadful Miranda Christmas special had had its initial BBC 1 airing, and then worked its way out through late-night repeats and the supplementary Freeview channels like a particularly odious turkey dinner turd navigating through holiday-hardened bowels, hostilities were swiftly resumed.
In the new year, demonstrators returned to the streets and spent the weekend just gone shooting at police, who brought out the water canon and batons. The two sides have been going back and forth in this manner since Friday and there are more protests planned at the end of the week. So far, a hundred people have been arrested, 60 police officers have been injured and a few politicians have been sent bullets in the post.
By now, many see the clashes as a result of the political process in Northern Ireland rather than the flag situation per se. At the same time, a percentage of loyalists have become disillusioned with home rule, calling for a return of direct rule from Westminster, a move that would no doubt placate everyone involved in this disagreement.
The exasperated citizens of Marrakech eschewed the usual pub-club-party schlep to spend New Year's Eve beating the shit out of their police force in protest at rising fuel, food and rent prices.
Morocco was able to emerge from the Arab Spring relatively unscathed due to its Monarchy's fierce grip on power and a number of political concessions made to quell a growing protest movement. However, protests against the soaring cost of living were sparked last June and erupted again this January 1st.
India and Pakistan are working to ensure January remains interesting, with clashes breaking out all along the "Line of Control" that separates India-controlled Kashmir from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
On Sunday, powerful men in Indian who spend their time stroking nuclear warheads sent forces across the LOC to attack a Pakistani army outpost. The subsequent deaths of one Pakistani soldier and the wounding of another were a response, Indian authorities claimed, to shelling from the Pakistani side.
Incidents like this aren't unusual in Kashmir (though fatalities are) but the issue was thought to be resolved, until Tuesday, when Pakistani forces crossed the LOC and attacked an Indian outpost. This time, two soldiers were killed. This is a conflict that neither side can really afford to escalate, least of all Pakistan which already faces not only a growing fight with the Taliban along the border it shares with Afghanistan, but also a violent insurgency in Balochistan.
According to the UN, the conflict in Syria has now caused the deaths of 60,000 people, which is 15,000 more than had been previously estimated. That figure, however, was only relevant up until the end of the November, when the UN's investigation ended. Incidents such as the bombing of a petrol station in the Damascus suburb of Ghota by the Syriam air force can be held responsible for the depressing rise in deaths: Scores were killed as they waited in line for petrol on New Year's Day, a now scarce commodity, in what can only be seen as a deliberate act of collective punishment.
On top of the 60,000-plus dead, many thousands of Syrian civilians have gone missing during the conflict, a large percentage of whom have wound up in the regime's prisons where torture is rife, as seen in this leaked video. The men torturing those civilians are members of the feared pro-regime militia the Shabiha, whose remit also extends to kidnapping foreign journalists.
Last week it was announced that American freelance journalist James Foley had been kidnapped by pro-government forces in November, and has not been heard from since. Whether taken for ransom or simply for the purposes of silencing him, no captor has announced a motive for the attack, but kidnappings like this are becoming increasingly frequent as the civil war drags on.
The rebel Free Syrian Army have continued to besiege Syrian air force bases in the North of the country over the past few weeks, in an attempt to knock out the regime air power that has been accountable for many thousands of deaths across the country. Most recently, a major battle took place around the Taftanaz air base, where the FSA have sought to destroy the regime's helicopters on their landing pads using captured tanks – see what that looks like in the video above.
Check back next week to see what other countries have broken their new year's resolutions to bring about planetary peace.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston