GAZA HEATS UP: Tens of thousands participated in anti-Israel protests in cities around the world, and security forces had to use tear gas and batons to repel a violent demonstration against an American consulate in Pakistan. The protests erupted as Israeli troops made their deepest advance into Gaza's most heavily populated area, where they met increasingly fierce resistance from Hamas fighters. Although a top defence official said that Hamas had been badly hurt by the offensive, Israel's military intelligence chief said that the militant group "is not expected to raise a white flag."

A waiter who shocked guests at a Jewish wedding by playing a recording of a crowd chanting in Arabic over a sound system at a Jewish community centre. Stephen Buttafuoco claimed he was playing the chanting -- recorded at an anti-Israel rally he attended -- for a friend and was unaware that it was being amplified.

The New York Times reported that U.S. President George W. Bush rejected an Israeli plea to assist it in raiding Iran's main nuclear complex last year. The plea involved a request for bunker-busting bombs, but the White House deflected the requests in favour of a covert plan to disrupt Iran's nuclear ambitions.


TREACHEROUS SLOPES: British Columbia's mountain country was the scene of more deadly avalanches when two separate slides left at least one snowmobiler dead, while another was missing. In both cases, survivors had to make the agonizing decision to abandon their own rescue attempts to seek help.

SNOW DAYS: Former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman said he was proud of his ten-year-old decision to call in the army to dig the city out of more than a metre of snow, which had left city streets unusable. The move raised eyebrows across wintry Canada and left the city as the butt of many jokes, but Lastman said the decision was necessary because the conditions made it impossible for emergency services to operate.

TWO SOLITUDES: A new poll suggested that Quebecers were at odds with Canadians across the rest of the country over what direction Ottawa should take if this month's federal budget is defeated. Quebecers overwhelmingly supported the formation of a coalition government propped up by the Bloc Quebecois, but a majority of westerners and a plurality of Canadians from other regions favoured holding an election.

I'M A SUBSTITUTE FOR ANOTHER GUY: Derrick Brooks wore a name card that read "Pres.-elect Obama" as he placed his hand on a bible to take the oath of office. It was all part of a dress rehearsal for president-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20th inauguration,
that also included a mock Michelle Obama, vice-president-elect Joe
Biden, and President Bush. Brooks was chosen as a substitute Obama
because he resembles the president-elect in height, weight and skin
colour. However, Obama noticed one flaw -- Brooks' ears weren't as big as his.

It was also announced this weekend that Obama had accepted Prime Minister Stephen Harper's invitation to make an official visit to Canada shortly after his inauguration.
It will be Obama's first international visit as the American president,
resuming a tradition that was broken by Bush when he opted to make
Mexico the destination for his first official visit. Obama was due to
hold pre-inauguration talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderon this week as violence from Mexico's drug war spilled over the border into the United States.

BEACHCOMBING: The body of one of five Somlian pirates who drowned when their small boat capsized shortly after recieving a ransom for a hijacked Saudi oil tanker was found washed up on a beach with $153,000 in ransom money.

'SUPERJUICE': Aboriginal chiefs, politicians and the RCMP were struggling with how to deal with 'superjuice' -- a toxic homemade drink made with quick-fermenting yeast that is fuelling suicide, violence and crime in Manitoba's dry reserves. Chief David Harper said that one bottle of the drink is enough for four people to drink until they black out.

FOR THE LONG HAUL: Vice-president-elect Joe Biden visited a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan to pledge continued American support for the country's struggle against the religious group. The visit came on the same day a large insurgent attack against a Pakistani Frontier Corps camp in Pakistan's restive northwest was repelled by security forces, leaving as many as 40 insurgents dead.

FREEDOM REINED: For the third year in a row, Freedom House -- a private democracy watchdog -- said that freedom worldwide was on a downward march in 2008, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union. The organization said that South Asia was the true bright spot, but "petro-authoritarian" states of the former Soviet bloc have consistently shown decline during the past decade.