Bill Weinberg

Nepal: repression escalates

While a big anti-Syria rally in Lebanon made the front page of the NY Times Feb. 15, a nationwide coordinated campaign of protests for restoration of democratic rule in Nepal—harshly put down with hundreds of arrests—rated only a small blurb in the "World Briefing" section at the bottom of page 6. Nepal has almost completely dropped from the news since the seizure of dictatorial emergency powers by the king Feb. 1, but repression is escalating. Student protest leaders are wanted for arrest and have gone into hiding; newspaper editors who report on the protests are themselves hauled before the police and held "for questioning"; the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has called for a thorough investigation in the recent shooting of an editor in east Nepal, and for the immediate release of detained journalists.

Anti-Syria violence in Lebanon

Amidst ongoing pro- and anti-Syria protests in Lebanon, Damascus is beginning to call home some units stationed in the country—starting with the intelligence agents in Beirut and Bekaa Valley.

Bush nominates Wolfowitz to World Bank, keeps straight face

President Bush has tapped Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to take over as head of the World Bank. Bush told a news conference March 15 that Wolfowitz, now Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's top deputy, is "a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job at the World Bank. That's why I put him up." (AP, March 16)

Sicko settlers schmooze at Baruch Goldstein's tomb

Newsday reports March 15 that militant settlers gathered at the Hebron tomb of Baruch Goldstein to mark the 11th anniversary of his massacre of 29 Palestinians as they prayed at the Tomb of Patriarchs, where Abraham is believed to be buried. (The 39-year-old native Brooklynite was beaten to death by survivors.) A photo accompanying the story shows one settler reverentially kissing Goldstein's tomb. The gathering served as a rallying point for settlers pledging to resist any attempt to evacuate them from the Occupied Territories. Israeli security services are said to be bracing for a violent backlash from the armed settler right.

NYC: pro-woman Muslims face death threats

The planned March 18 woman-led traditional Friday prayers—hailed as an historic first for Islam—have been moved from a Soho art gallery to an undisclosed location where they will be open to an invitation-only list following a slate of death threats. One anonymous message to the gallery threatened to "blow you up." The prayers are to be led by Amina Wadud, author of Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, who remains defiant: "If there really exists a threat to my life, if my intentions and my heart remain focused on Allah, then I couldn't die in a better state. Life and death are not mine to determine."

Lone nut named in Lefkow case

An apparent lone nut, Bart Ross, left a suicide note claiming responsibility for the murder of two family members of Chicago federal Judge Joan Lefkow before blowing his own brains out, throwing suspicion off the white supremacist World Church of the Creator (see our last blog post on the case).

"Covert propaganda" in California

The administration of California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has followed the Bush White House in producing "video press releases" neatly disguised as actual news items for distribution to TV news stations—Bush to promote the Iraq war, Arnold to promote his anti-union policies. Critics call the tactic "covert propaganda" and compare it to the methods of totalitarian regimes. (UK Independent, March 14)

Anti-UN ideologue appointed UN ambassador

In another gesture of perverse irony, the Bush administration has appointed John Bolton, a longtime anti-UN ideologue, as ambassador to the UN (replacing John Danforth, who is stepping down).