Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez charged Feb. 21 that President Bush is behind a plot to assassinate him—and warned that if it succeeded, Venezuela would halt oil exports to the US. "If I am assassinated, there is only one person responsible: the president of the United States," Chavez said during his weekly radio and TV show, Hello President, claiming he had received a tip from his good friend Fidel Castro. "If, by the hand of the devil, these perverse plans succeed...forget about Venezuelan oil, Mr. Bush," Chavez said. Addressing his own people, he added: "I will not hide, I will walk in the streets with all of you...but I know I am condemned to death." (UK Guardian, Feb. 22)
Three international reports have fled Zimbabwe ahead of President Robert Mugabe's 81st birthday celebrations, and a fourth is in hiding after police searches their offices and threatened to have them arrested for slandering the state. Those who fled, Angus Shaw of AP, Brian Latham of Bloomberg news and Jaan Raath of the London Times, left last week following a Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Organization statement that it had launched a manhunt for a fourth journalist, Cornelius Nduna, a freelancer for several news organizations. Nduna has yet to be found. His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said the government accused him of possessing videotapes shot at a training camp for the Green Bombers, a government-backed youth militia. (AP, Feb. 22)
Attorneys for former post-9-11 detainees at New York's federal Metropolitan Detention Center call it "Brooklyn's Abu Ghraib." The detainees—none of whom were ever charged with anything related to terrorism—say in sworn affidavits and interviews with Justice Department officials that correction officers at the facility in the Sunset Park neighborhood:
Up to 400 are reported dead in an earthquake which struck near the city of Zarand in Kerman province of southeastern Iran. (RFE/RL, Reuters, Feb. 22) A December 2003 earthquake at the city of Bam, also in Zarand, killed some 30,000 and led to some ripples in Iran's political order. See WW4 REPORT #94
Al-Jazeera has aired another propaganda video from Ayman al-Zawahiri, now said to be al-Qaeda's number two man after Osama bin Laden. "Your new crusade will end, God willing, with the same defeat as its predecessors, but only after you have suffered tens of thousands of dead and the destruction of your economy," Zawahiri said in his message to "the peoples of the West" broadcast by the Qatar-based satellite channel. (AFP, Feb. 21)
Bad news for freedom of speech on opposite sides of the planet. The presidents of both Kygyzstan and Venezuela seem to have gone litigation-happy against opposition figures.
"Peak oil" theorists will be vindicated by a Feb. 20 report on al-Jazeera that Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil producer, has past its peak of production and may have in fact damaged its own extractable reserves through over-production. Writes al-Jazeera:
As oil stubbornly refuses to fall below $45 a barrel, a major market mover has cast a worrying future prediction.
Speaking at an anti-war event in Olympia, WA, former Iraq weapons inspector Scott Ritter claimed that President Bush has already signed off on plans to start bombing Iran in June, ostensibly to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. If we live so long, I guess we're gonna find out if the guy really has inside dope. (United for Peace of Pierce County, Feb. 19)