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Metro Snapshot: January 5, 2009

<strong>For all that you need to know today, read the Metro Snapshot.</strong>

SPARWOOD MOURNS: A crowd of about 2,000 shouted "here's to the boys" in unison as part of a tribute to the eight men killed by a series of avalanches while they were snowmobiling a week earlier.

BOOTS ON THE GROUND: Thousands of Israeli troops -- backed up by tanks and helicopter gunships -- surrounded Gaza's largest city, kicking off the first full day of an overwhelming ground offensive aimed at rooting out Hamas militants. Gaza City was effectively cut off, and Palestinians across the Gaza Strip were huddled in fear as fighting raged around them. The spiralling casualties among Palestinian civilians were taking a toll on world opinion -- including continued demonstrations in many Canadian cities -- and the United States blocked a United Nations Security Council statement that called for an immediate cease-fire.

Israel's main objective for the Gaza incursion is to end years of rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns, but many observers allege that another goal is to erase the tarnish left behind by the botched 2006 campaign against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Surrounded by enemies, Israel relies heavily on being the most powerful military in the region, and the Lebanese incursion was widely viewed as a failure.

V 3.0: Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush has already seen one son serve in the White House, and believes that another son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is "as qualified and able as anyone I know on the political scene" to also be president. As the current Bush administration heads into its final weeks, among the favoured topics of those who are calculating President George W. Bush's legacy are the president's frequent verbal gaffes.

LISTERIA PROBE: Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has yet to appoint the leader of an"arms-length" probe into last year's listeria outbreak, which was promised four days before the prime minister called an early election. The outbreak came at a time the government was preparing to hand off more responsibility for meat inspection to the industry.

BIG CAPTURE: Pakistani authorities captured a high-ranking Taliban spokesman who was sent to by leader Mullah Omar to mediate between two militant groups near the Afghan border. Many in the West remained concerned that rising tensions between India and Pakistan are distracting Pakistan from fighting militants. Meanwhile, many Afghans in the country's troubled south live in fear of roaming Taliban religious leaders who act as judges, meting out punishments such as executions, banishment or chopping off hands with an axe.

STUCK ON REPEAT: When former Guinea ruler Lansana Conte came to power in a coup, he told the people that if they ever saw him living in a large house or driving a fancy car, they would know he had stolen from them. During his funeral last week, his children arrived at his palatial home in a convoy of opulent SUVs, and history appeared doomed to repeat itself as another unknown army officer declared coup built on a foundation of promising democracy.

CHILD SUPPORT MURDER: A Lousiana father confessed to killing his two-year-old son -- after initially fabricating a story about his son being kidnapped by dreadlocked men armed with AK-47s -- because he was unwilling to pay his estranged wife $4,000 in back child support.

 
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