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What are the most underreported world news stories of 2007? 

Don't Panic ... your war questions answered

I can't in good conscience answer this question.

You see, if I told you what I think the most underreported world stories of the year are, I'd be reporting them, thus potentially ruining their chances of getting on other people's underreported-stories-of-the-year lists.

Fortunately for you and this newspaper, I don't have a conscience.

So, here, without further tongue-in-cheek intro filler, are the stories I wish the American news media would present to the American people, in lieu of live dispatches from the vaginas of the Spears sisters.

The U.S. invasion of Somalia and its horrific humanitarian consequences: In a joint operation with Ethiopia's dictatorial regime, the United States invaded Somalia in late 2006. U.S. participation in the invasion followed a similar model as the invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 – we provided air support, money, logistics and special-ops teams, while Ethiopia provided the manpower, rifles and armor. Yet the news media in the United States have, with few exceptions, never described the operation as a U.S. invasion.

Speaking off the record, White House and Pentagon officials acknowledged the operation early this year – at a moment it looked as if the joint U.S.-Ethiopian force had routed Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts, an Islamist movement that, despite its predictable, serious flaws, had succeeded in restoring a semblance of order to a country that lacked a central government for nearly a decade and a half.

Not surprisingly, American officials stopped bragging about the invasion after it became apparent that it had unleashed a guerrilla war and epic humanitarian crisis. The European Union reports that 800,000 Somalis have been forced to flee their homes. And it's not like Somalis can just wait out the war watching "Wonder Years" reruns at the Holiday Inn Express Mogadishu, either. They're adrift in a violent, desperately poor country with no food, no shelter and no chance that an international force is going to step in to help them.

Zimbabwe is on its way to collapse: In an effort to hold on to power, Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe has during the past several years handed over the country's working farms to cronies and peasants who, though deserving of opportunity, could not always operate farms as well as the previous owners.

The result has been a collapse of Zimbabwe's economy. Zimbabwe's unemployment rate is 80 percent, and inflation is so high, the price of such staples as bread and cooking oil have gone up 100,000 percent in 2007 alone – when they're available at all. The United Nations estimates 4 million Zimbabweans will require food aid to survive next year.

Zimbabwe used to be an exporter of food. Now its people are so desperate, they're fleeing by the hundreds of thousands – mostly to neighboring South Africa. As Zimbabwe spirals down, a civil war that drags all of southern Africa into military conflict is not unthinkable.

Renewed war in Congo: The words "World War III" are usually used as a metaphor. During the Cold War, people would say that if the United States and the Soviets fought, it'd be World War III. More recently, people have referred to the War On Terror™ as World War III.

But an actual World War III already happened. From 1998 to 2003, 4 million died in a war in central Africa's Congo. Eight nations participated in what was the deadliest war on Earth since World War II.

There were few cameras there – no Edward R. Murrows, no Tom Brokaws, no Spears sisters' vaginas – so as far as this country is concerned, the war didn't really happen.

Now, after a three-year lull in the fighting and democratic elections last year, fighting has picked up again. The reasons are, frankly, too convoluted to explain briefly and accurately, but the bottom line is that many of the factions who shot, hacked and gang-raped their way across eastern Congo are at it again. This year, 500,000 people from Congo's Kivu province have fled their homes to avoid the warring factions. If they're not helped, many, if not most, will die.

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