World Peace Update
Remember all that fuss last week about North Korea and their nuclear itchy trigger finger? Turns out they were just testing how smashy the thing was for their Iranian friends. Luckily, an exploding meteor stepped in to fill the blast radius in our souls where the fear of imminent nuclear apocalypse used to be.
Human extinction narrowly avoided, it was up to groups of Greek farmers, Bahraini revolutionaries and pissed-off Colombians to prove that we're just as adept at destroying ourselves as the infinite and all-encompassing cosmos.
After decades of mining and an uninterested government doing nothing for the community of the north-eastern Arauca region, locals got to blocking four major oilfields in protest against their community being exploited. A few days later, on February the 15th, the state's patience ran out – police, and later the armed forces, moved in to clear the roads using tear gas and rubber bullets. Obviously that kind of dickhead move only ever results in extreme violence, so in their refusal to budge, the protesters set up burning barricades and fought back with slingshots and petrol bombs.
In an effort to delegitimise the protest, President Juan Manuel Santos claimed the protesters were receiving support from local guerrilla groups. However, he completely failed to elaborate on the identity of those groups or provide any proof, so with the situation becoming increasingly pressing, Santos was forced to visit the region and mediate the situation over the weekend. Can't really mess with oil profits, eh Juan?
The initial uprising of 2011 in Bahrain (that sought an end to the authoritarian monarchy) was crushed a month after it started, when the government got the Saudi Military to move in and enact a state of emergency. Since then, protests and public violence have become the norm, with the battle in the village of Sitra and last year's anniversary demos being the most notable.
This year's anniversary celebrations on the 14th were no different. What started as a general strike sparked hundreds of protests across the island, complete with numerous road blockades that the police tried to clear using tear gas and "bird-shot".
Bird-shot is the supposedly less-lethal ammunition fired from shotguns that's responsible for scores of deaths and injuries among protesters. Early on in the day, it was put into lethal effect when a young teenager, Ali Ahmed Al Jazeeri, was shot and killed in the village of Diya. Understandably outraged, the people responded with petrol bombs and stones, which resulted in the death of a policeman.
The clashes went on throughout the day and then resumed a few days later, after Ali Jazeeri's funeral. It goes without saying that a dialogue between the government and the opposition remains on hold, so it seems we're looking at the start of another year of sporadic violence in the Middle East.
Following the basketball fanatics who gave Greek police a flare-induced headache last week, it's angry farmers helping Greece make its way into this column for the third time in a row. After blocking the roads with flaming tyre barricades, hundreds of farmers clashed with police last Thursday in the province of Corinth while the cops tried to clear the roads.
As the Greek economy continues to slump, farmers are being hit particularly hard by a rise in taxation and production costs. So I guess that blocking the roads for the last two weeks, as they have done, is a pretty justified response. And, as usual, instead of inviting the farming community to negotiate, the Greek government keep sending police in to forcefully break up protests, because people react well and don't build resentment when they're being beat on and tear-gassed the whole time.
A week ago, the Free Syrian Army took yet another regime air base and were able to capture a number of intact and supposedly functioning fighter jets. These aren't the first jets captured by the rebels, but are possibly the first usable ones, levelling the playing field that the regime have been busy flying over until now. To see whether the jets are operational, the rebels dispatched defected maintenance teams to the air base to run tests. If they decide the jets can fly, then some of the 45 defected pilots could start the first squadron of the Free Syrian Air Force.
No longer able to rely on their air power, the Syrian military have now switched to using high-powered, if inaccurate, surface-to-surface missiles (Scuds). On Monday, the regime fired one of these missiles into a densely populated area of Aleppo in an attack that so far has killed 25 people and is nothing short of terrorism. The use of the missiles highlights a desperate escalation of the conflict and comes amid reports that water supplies in the east of the country have mixed with sewage, giving way to a typhoid outbreak that has so far infected 2,500. Life just keeps getting better in Syria.
Check back to see who'll be causing trouble in Greece next week.
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston