Daily Roundup Feb 14, 2008
After the Read More! Pajamas Media reviews a new thriller set in a future Islamic Republic of America. Ontario looks to replace the Lord's Prayer. Israel puts its embassies on the alert for a possible Hezbollah reprisal; Nasrallah says Israel was cheating by killing Mughaniyeh in Damascus. Putin threatens to target any state that deploys an anti-missile defense. Trendy climate change policies are actually causing environmental disasters. Obama foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski heads for Damascus at a tense time. Saudi Arabia prepares to execute a woman for witchcraft. And flying under the radar, the Philippines is convulsed by allegations that China bribed relatives of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo into awarding a contract to wire the entire government to the Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited (ZTE).
Arthur Chrenkoff reviews a new novel by Robert Ferrigno entitled Sins of the Assassin. The Amazon Review provides the setting. "In 2043, almost 30 years after a series of suitcase nukes destroyed New York City and Washington, D.C., the U.S. is divided into two major regions—the Islamic Republic and the Bible Belt. Islam and fundamentalist Christianity have respectively filled the spiritual vacuum caused by the mass destruction and the subsequent imposition of martial law."
During the height of the Cold War fiction writers mined the public's deepest fears. But the fears were always grounded in fact. Nightmares, like dreams reveal a public's deepest thoughts. One of the most telling indications that the way back to the fake Clintonion 1990s Garden of Eden is barred are the themes of recent fiction. This is our world; and while Ferrigno's book may be imaginary ours is all too real.
The Ontario premier orders a review of Lord's Prayer recital at the beginning of each Ontario legislative session, saying it doesn't reflect Ontario's diversity. "McGuinty said it was time to 'move beyond' the Lord's Prayer to a more inclusive custom that better reflects Ontario's multiculturalism."
Iowahawk has some thoughts about 'moving beyond'.
Reuters says Israel has put its embassies high alert and reinforced troops on the Lebanese border on Thursday after the assassination of Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyeh.
The AP says Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to punish Israel, saying "'You have killed Hajj Imad outside the natural battlefield,' Nasrallah said in remarks directed at Israel. Hezbollah has long contended it only fights Israel within Lebanon and along their common border. 'You have crossed the borders,' Nasrallah said. 'With this murder, its timing, location and method — Zionists, if you want this kind of open war, let the whole world listen: Let this war be open.'". Now Hezbollah has laid down the marker: 'no more Mr. Nice Guy'.
"President Vladimir Putin on Thursday repeated his threat to aim Russian rockets at former Soviet satellite states if U.S. missile defense facilities are deployed there. Speaking about U.S. plans for interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, Putin said, 'Our experts consider that this system threatens our national security, and if it appears, we will be obligated to adequately react to this,' according to the IHT.
Putin is taking every possible step to keep Europe vulnerable to Russian pressure, either the control of its natural gas supplies or by keeping it from squiring out from under his nuclear arsenal. Ironically such Russian tactics will re-create the very conditions which made Europe dependent on the US. With the balance of Europe's energy coming by sea and with no nuclear deterrent of its own, the Old Continent's short term response to the Russian threats can only be a renewed dependence on American seapower and strategic weapons.
The fall of the Soviet Union provided a window in which Europe could act as if it didn't need America any more. But unfortunately, the predicted End of History never materialized and the emergence of resurgent threats will mean that Europe must either invest in its own security or rely once again on an alliance with the United States.
The Wall Street Journal quotes studies by Princeton, Woods Hole and the University of Massachusetts to show that climate-change intiatives to promite ethanol and other biofuels are actually worse for the environment than fossil fuels. Among the things they cause: deforestation in the tropics. The WSJ comments:
Yet special blame also belongs to the environmentalists, who are engaged in a grand bait-and-switch. They stir up a panic about global warming, and Washington responds to the political incentives. Then those policies don't work and the greens immediately begin pushing a new substitute, whose outcomes and costs are equally uncertain. But somehow, that never seems to discredit the entire enterprise and taxpayers keep footing the subsidy bill. Our guess is that these new revelations will also be ignored. They're too embarrassing.
The NY Sun reports that Barack Obama's senior foreign policy adviser is making a trip to Damascus. "Mr. Brzezinski's visit to Syria, a country President Bush has accused of arming terrorists and ordering political assassinations in Lebanon, is in many ways in keeping with a theme of the Obama campaign. The Illinois senator in August said during a Democratic debate that he would be willing to meet with foreign adversaries, earning a rebuke from Senator Clinton, a Democrat of New York, who said such an approach would be 'naïve.'"
According to the Huffington Post Syria's official Cham News agency said the senior Obama policy adviser's trip was an "important sign that the end of official dialogue between Washington and Damascus has not prevented dialogue with important American intellectuals and politicians." Brzezinski will arrive at a time when tensions are running high in Lebanon and in the immediate aftermath of the death of Imad Mughniyeh in an upscale Syrian suburb.
Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of an illiterate woman named Fawza Falih for witchcraft, according to the BBC and "her conviction was on the basis of the written statements of witnesses who said that she had bewitched them". The woman affixed her fingerprint to her confession because she could not sign her name.
A sense of what is involved in "witchcraft" is conveyed by an incident which occured in late 2007. "Saudi Arabia’s religious police have arrested a domestic worker accused of having put a spell on her employer, the Al-Madina newspaper reported on Sunday. The arrest of the maid, whose nationality was not revealed, followed a complaint by the wife of the employer who she said had been 'bewitched by the maid'. The woman said she suspected her husband had been put under a spell because he fiercely defended the maid from criticism every time she neglected her work."
A bribery scandal involving Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has highlighted the role of the Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited (ZTE). Critics allege the firm bribed persons close to the Macapagal-Arroyo to obtain the contract. According to Wikipedia, "ZTE operates in mainland China, Bangladesh, Hong Kong , the Philippines, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Brazil, Romania, Pakistan, Nepal, Iran, India, Libya, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, Angola, U.S., UK, Algeria, Tunisia, Russia, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Australia, Canada and Sri Lanka." One of the witnesses against Arroyo claims he was intimidated now gives press conferences from the sanctuary of a chapter house of a religious order. Critics have expressed reservations over Arroyo's decision to contract over the communications infrastructure of the Philippine government to a Chinese firm.