news bits you might have missed

The United Nations announced that 34,452 civilians were killed in Iraq last year, a number nearly three times higher than previous estimates by the Iraqi interior ministry.[BBC] “I think,” said President George W. Bush, “the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude.”[ITV.com]

Connecticut was fighting with Texas over which state invented the hamburger. “We are even the birthplace of George Bush, who wants people to think he’s from Texas,” said New Haven mayor John DeStefano. “The hamburger is as much a New Haven original as President Bush.”[AP via CNN]

The above from Harper’s Weekly. Also, the below:

Sex-changing chemicals were discovered in Washington, D.C.’s Potomac River
Female tsunami survivors in India were selling their kidneys
In New York City, a Madison Avenue antiques dealer was suing, for one million dollars, a group of homeless people who had taken up residence outside his business
The United Arab Emirates beat out the United States to become the world’s most wasteful country
Experts warned that Lake Chad, Africa’s third largest body of water, could become a pond within two decades,[BBC] drought was driving tens of thousands of snakes into Australian cities,[BBC] and members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands on their “doomsday clock” two minutes closer to midnight.[BBCnews.com]

And this from The Week.

Liberia
The shock of an honest president.
Austin Ejiet
The Monitor (Uganda)
Africa has never seen anything like Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, said Austin Ejiet in the Kampala Monitor. The Harvard-trained Liberian president has been in office an entire year and has yet to establish a Swiss bank account for stashing “humongous sums” of money stolen from the state. Instead, she actually gives leftover money back! When one donor organization gave more money than necessary to refurbish a steel plant, Sirleaf-Johnson’s government refunded the surplus. Even more astounding, she won’t take bribes! That is positively un-African. “If somebody wants a mining concession to prospect for oil or rummage for diamonds in your country and he offers you 10 percent or some other golden handshake, it is bad manners to mount the moral high ground and refuse the offer.” The entire social fabric would unravel. There’s just one explanation possible for Sirleaf-Johnson’s outrageous behavior. She must be “gunning for a Nobel Prize.” If so, she should be warned: The award pays a measly $1 million.

I wonder if Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson would like to emigrate to America, become a citizen, and run for president here. (Heh. We know she’d never get elected!)