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)
With Lebanon possibly next in the US crosshairs following the Valentine's Day car-bomb assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, the Hezbollah militia movement marked the Shi'ite holy day of Ashura with a massive rally in Beirut. Amid requisite chants of "Death to Israel, death to America," Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told hundreds of thousands of followers, "Resistance is the choice of our nation and the enemy cannot disparage us." He called the White House "an enemy to this nation because it supports Israel with money and weapons, because it wants to humiliate our people," and described the US government as the "biggest thief of our oil and resources, while hundreds of millions [in the region] remain unemployed." In a statement clearly directed Bush, he added: "Those who try to put us on the terrorism lists will fail again, for our being on the terrorism lists will make us more determined in continuing our path." (UPI, Feb. 19)
Writes Israeli left-wing commentator Uri Avnery in a Feb. 19 piece for Media Monitors Network, "Beware of the Dog!":
It is not very flattering to be paraded like a Rottweiler on a leash, whose master threatens to let him loose on his enemies. But this is our situation now.
Irish police say they have seized nearly $5 million in a series of raids on suspected Republican safehouses across the country, uncovering what hardline Justice Minister Michael McDowell called a "colossal crime machine, laundering huge sums of money." One suspected IRA militant was reportedly caught burning a pile of British currency in his backyard. But authorities admitted they were unable to determine if any of the money came from December's massive Belfast bank heist which British and Irish officials alike have blamed on the IRA, leading to a breakdown of peace talks. (AP, Feb. 19)
In an uncharacterstically strong and principled lead editorial Feb. 19, the NY Times says its "Time for an Accounting" on Abu Ghraib and the administration's policy on torture and detainment generally. Maybe, finally, a sign that elite consciences are beginning to stir. It is worth quoting at length:
The NY Times' Feb. 18 front-page profile of John Negroponte, Bush's appointment as Director of National Intelligence, did at least mention—albeit towards the end, at the bottom of page 16—"allegations that he played down human rights violations in Honduras when their exposure could have undermined the Reagan administration's Latin American agenda." (NYT, Feb. 18)