Bill Weinberg

Opposition: Islamists cheat in Saudi elections

In the men-only elections for half the seats on Saudi Arabia's municipal councils--a landmark step towards democracy by Saudi standards--results are in from the capital, Riyadh, and over 30 losing candidates are claiming the seven winners violated campaign guidelines. The winners, predictably, were all affiliated with Islamist organizations backed by the government, and are accused of violating the ban on electoral alliances by portraying themselves as a de facto alliance backed by prominent reglious sheikhs. Results are still pending in other municipalities. Reuters says the principal opponents of the government-backed Islamists in the races are "businessmen" (presumably more liberal and globalist technocrats) and "tribal" leaders (presumably representing local sheikhs who resent the ostentatious power of the Saud clan, but are not likely to be more progressive on such questions as women's rights). (NYT, Feb. 14; Reuters, Feb. 11)

Kyoto takes effect —without world's biggest polluter

Ecologists protested at the US embassy in London Feb. 12 over President Bush's refusal to join the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gases and tackle climate change. The long-stalled treaty goes into effect this week, committing 136 countries to reduce gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels in the next decade. Prime Minister Tony Blair has declared climate change "the biggest, long-term challenge the global community faces". But the US, the biggest producer of greenhouse gases by far, is the only major industrial country not to have signed.

Neo-Nazis "hijack" Dresden commemoration

The UK Independent reports Feb. 14 that over 5,000 neo-Nazis swarmed the official 60th anniversary commemoration of the Allied bombardment of Dresden, effectively "hijacking" the event in the east German city. Bused in from all over Germany, they overwhelmed the proceedings outside the rebuilt Semper Opera House, which had been destroyed in the bombing. They violated German law by singing the Nazi-era national anthem. It was the largest Nazi rally in Germany since the fall of the Third Reich.

Indian Country Today: Churchill must come clean on identity

Indian Country Today, the national weekly published by the Oneida Nation in upstate New York, ran an editorial Feb. 10, "The Churchill Episode: Two Unfortunate Currents." The piece decries that the affair has been exploited by right-wing pundits and defends academic freedom, stating that Churchill must not be fired from the Univeristy of Colorado on the basis of his comments, however repugnant. However, the second current identified by ICT will not be so comforting to Churchill's supporters:

9-11 Commish FAA revelations: more fodder for conspiranoia mill

A newly declassified report from the 9-11 Commission--released five months late and heavily censored, with several passges blotted out by thick black ink lines--reviews Federal Aviation Administration daily intelligence briefings to airport administrators in the months leading up to the attacks.

Pro-nuke rally in Tehran

At a massive Tehran rally marking Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution Feb. 10, President Mohammad Khatami pledged that no Iranian government would abandon the country's program to devlop peaceful nuclear technology. (AP, Feb. 10) He promised a "burning hell" for any aggressor, to chants of "Death to Ameirca!" and "Death to Israel!" (CNN, Feb. 10)

North Korea: dialogue or "destabilization"?

Now isn't this interesting? A front-page headline in the Feb. 11 NY Times reads: "North Koreans Say They Hold Nuclear Arms; Assert They'll Refuse to Rejoin Negotiations." The article states this stance could "bolster" those in the US administration who favor "destabilizing the government of President Kim Jong Il."

Young music stars defy mullahs in Pakistan's Tribal Areas

The BBC reported a glimmer of hope Jan. 27 from Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, where Taliban-inspired movements have won local political control over the semi-autonomous Tribal Areas. Two local kids, Tariq Hussain Bacha and Zeeshan Khan (respectively 12 and 11), have formed a musical duo and are defying the ruling mullahs' ban by performing in public. They initially played secret gigs in back rooms, but since their album Joora Guloona ("two flowers" in the Pashtun language) has become a success they have become bolder. Stocked at first by a few shops in Peshawar's famous Choor Bazar (Thieves Bazaar), copies started flying off the shelves and soon there were orders from the US, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan.

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