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International Briefs

Indypendent Staff May 16

U.S. Besieges Iraq’s Third-Largest City
Thousands of U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies launched a major offensive May 10 on Iraq’s third-largest city, Mosul. Home to 1.4 million people, Mosul has been sealed off from the outside world since the offensive began and hundreds of police and army checkpoints were established. A strict curfew is being enforced, while many people have fled in advance of the fighting. “The fact that the government has to empty the streets of Mosul of its people to establish peace for a few days shows how far the city is from genuine peace,” wrote Patrick Cockburn of The Independent (U.K.). As the war moves into its sixth year, the United States has also recently backed major assaults on the port city of Basra and Sadr City a sprawling neighborhood in Baghda that is home to 2.5 million mostly poor Shi’ites.

Blackwater’s Shell Game
Several months after local opposition thwarted its efforts to build a massive outdoor training center near San Diego, the private military company Blackwater Worldwide is being accused of secretly trying to build a new one just blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Democracy Now!, Blackwater received approval for the 61,000-square-foot indoor facility in Otay Mesa, Calif., by filing for permits using the names of two subsidiary companies. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is calling for an investigation into whether Blackwater purposely misrepresented itself when it sought city building permits.

The Constitutional Right to Pleasure
Maria Soledad Vega, a member of Ecuador’s constituent assembly, has proposed an amendment to the nation’s new constitution that would protect a woman’s right to sexual pleasure, reports El Mercurio. The proposal, which could allow a woman to sue her husband for leaving her sexually unsatisfied, has sparked controversy. Opposition Assembly member Francisco Cisneros denounced the amendment as ridiculous and called on President Rafael Correa to rein in Assembly members who belong to his party.

CO2 Levels Reach New High
The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached a record high last year, according to scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40 percent over the past two centuries. From 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5 ppm each year, but since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 2.1 ppm. Scientists say the shift could indicate that the Earth is losing its natural ability to soak up billions of tons of carbon each year. “Levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise in the atmosphere, and the rate of that rise is accelerating,” said Martin Perry of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “We are already seeing the impacts of climate change and the scale of those impacts will also accelerate, until we decide to do something about it.”