This Christmas the Colombian government is sending small shining spheres through the rivers of poor regions controlled by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Inside each shining orb there will be a message: "Do not let this Christmas go by. Demobilize". This is perhaps the first time Christmas decorations have been used for counterinsurgency purposes. After the death of the top leader of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, during an army operation last November, the government hopes to reach a record figure for demobilisations of guerrillas during the festivities and the two following months.
The decision to postpone the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrates that North America has not yet defined a workable compromise between competing demands to increase energy security, and reduce the negative environmental impacts of energy. The US$7 billion proposal by TransCanada to build a 1,700 mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas has been delayed in the face of strong environmental protests and local opposition within Nebraska along the pipeline’s would-be route. The project, which has been strongly supported by the Canadian government, has now been pushed back until after the next US Presidential election.
The 66th Session of the UN General Assembly on 21 September, presented a precious opportunity for Brazilian president Dilma Roussef to shine on the international stage, even without the personal charisma of her popular predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. She held talks with US and European authorities on the financial crisis and in November will again be in the international spotlight during the G20 summit in France.
On the morning of 9/11, I woke up to the sound of my roommate yelling from the living room of our apartment. Two planes had just hit the World Trade Center towers. I quickly absorbed the images on television, gathered my things and headed to the scene. On the way to the subway, I bumped into a couple of Columbia Journalism School classmates. While we rode the train, we tried to figure out how this could have happened. I do not recall that terrorism immediately registered on our minds. The subways were not going all the way down to Lower Manhattan so we had to walk or run dozens of blocks. Seventh Avenue was eerily quiet. Crowds huddled around vehicles to listen to news bulletins over the radio. There were reports of possible attacks on Washington, and the Pentagon. I do not recall there was a lot of panic at that moment – more confusion and disbelief.
I arrived at Columbia as green as can be, fresh out of college and wholly unprepared for a news story as transcendent as the 11 September terrorist attacks. Yet I also knew enough to realize that I simply had to be part of the coverage. Within an hour of a second plane striking the World Trade Center, I was in downtown Manhattan, interviewing rattled and soot-covered survivors as they streamed north. I spent the next week with emergency workers who had arrived from around the country to assist their New York counterparts; interviewing Pakistani immigrants in Jackson Heights, Queens who suddenly felt under suspicion; and speaking with grief-stricken relatives who came forward with toothbrushes in hopes of a DNA match that could identify the remains of their loved ones.
I stood in the hall, watching the screen in the auditorium. News channels were retailing a forlorn hope that the plane crash into the World Trade Center might have been an accident. There was talk of a pilot being blinded by the early morning sun. “Nope”, came the voice beside me. “Terrorism”. Steeled by five years living in Israel, my friend Caryn knew it instantly. Unprepared by a carefree Australian upbringing, I struggled to grasp it. These things just did not happen in the safety of western democracies, let alone on home soil for the globe’s dominant superpower.
After American Airlines Flight 11 hit the first tower, I jumped in the shower. At the time, I had no way of knowing this was a terrorist attack. It looked like a tragic accident. So I set about starting my day, which was to include a trip to Harlem to cover the mayoral primary. That all changed when my roommate screamed. I could hear her from the bathroom. A second plane had hit the second tower. She was watching the events unfold on television from our apartment on the Upper West Side, and she was sobbing.