A Divided World - Yesterday we showed how 'isolated' Russia was (if you chose to look only at isolating parts of the world). Today, we glimpse at the world's views on Chin...
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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee held onto a 9-point lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the race for the Iowa presidential caucuses, according to a poll released Saturday by the Davenport, Iowa, Quad City Times.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson were tied for a distant third place. Both of those candidates were 22 points behind Huckabee.
The poll indicated that Huckabee's lead over Romney has eroded slightly since a month ago, when it stood at 14 points.
The word-bite coming out of Mike Huckabee's Foreign Affairs manifesto is "arrogant bunker mentality," this in reference to the Bush administration, a mindset which, the new Republican front-runner avers, "has been counterproductive at home and abroad." Mitt Romney is demanding an apology from Huckabee to the president, but this grasping at straws only confirms Huckabee's status as the front-runner.
What's significant here is that Huckabee is trying to steal the "isolationist" thunder of the real guerrilla insurgent in this race, and that is Ron Paul. Paul's angular antiwar stance is a bit much for the party rank-and-file, who have loyally supported the policy if not the president's handling of it, but now Huckabee's attack on the style (if not the substance) of Bushian interventionism provides an out for those Republicans who are beginning to have some real doubts. This is important, and encouraging, because it legitimizes the more substantial critique of interventionism coming from the Paul camp and certain precincts on the Right.
Overcoming conflicts and disarmament
Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future. Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person. Many civil wars are still being fought in Africa, even though a number of countries there have made progress on the road to freedom and democracy.
The Middle East is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighbouring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence. On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race: even some developing nations allot a significant portion of their scant domestic product to the purchase of weapons.
The responsibility for this baneful commerce is not limited: the countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry. In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aimed at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms.
At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity.
To all my best wishes for a joyful New Year!
From the Vatican, 8 December 2007
Russians cast their votes in parliamentary elections on Sunday, with an overwhelming victory widely expected for Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party – and yet we already knew what we were supposed to think of the whole process, with Western governments and media outlets (or do I repeat myself?) having already decided the whole thing was a farce well before a single vote was cast.
How did they know this?
Well, because Putin is supposedly the reincarnation of Joseph Stalin – in spite of the fact that he hasn't jailed a single person on account of their political opinions, and the Russian gulag has long since disappeared into history. Yet the accusations against Putin have grown louder, even as Russia grows more prosperous and ordinary Russians are more supportive of their president – and therein lies a tale.
Vladamir Putin is arguably the most popular leader in Russian history, although you'd never know it by reading the western media. According to a recent survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, Putin's personal approval rating in November 2007 was 85 per cent, making him the most popular head of state in the world today. Putin's popularity derives from many factors. He is personally clever and charismatic. He is fiercely nationalistic and has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of ordinary Russians and restore the country to its former greatness. He has raised over 20 million Russians out of grinding poverty, improved education, health care and the pension system, (partially) nationalized critical industries, lowered unemployment, increased manufacturing and exports, invigorated Russian markets, strengthened the ruble, raised the overall standard of living, reduced government corruption, jailed or exiled the venal oligarchs, and amassed capital reserves of $450 billion.
Russia is, once again, a major world power and a vital source of hydrocarbons. It's star is steadily rising just as America's has begun to wane. This may explain why Putin is loathed by the West. Freud might call it petroleum envy, but it's deeper than that. Putin has charted a course for social change that conflicts with basic tenets of neoliberalism, which are the principles which govern US foreign policy. He is not a member of the corporate-banking brotherhood which believes the wealth of the world should be divided among themselves regardless of the suffering or destruction it may cause. Putin's primary focus is Russia; Russia's welfare, Russia's sovereignty and Russia's place in the world. He is not a globalist.
That is why the Bush administration has encircled Russia with military bases, toppled neighboring regimes with its color-coded revolutions, (which were organized by US NGOs and intelligence services) intervened in Russian elections, and threatened to deploy an (allegedly defensive) nuclear weapons system in Eastern Europe. Russia is seen as a potential rival to US imperial ambitions and must be contained or subverted.
President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, has rolled back Russia's democratic achievements, restored Soviet-era symbols and tried to soften public perceptions of Stalin.
In June, he told history teachers that although Stalin's political purges were one of the most notorious episodes of the Soviet era, Russia should not be made to feel guilty because "in other countries even worse things happened."
In a new book for history teachers commissioned by the Kremlin, Stalin is portrayed as an effective manager. "Political repression was used (by Stalin) to mobilize both ordinary citizens and the management elite," the book says. Also in the book, published earlier this year, the United States is cast as an evil power seeking world dominance.
“We don’t really know the answer to so many questions. We don’t know how deep the US housing downturn will be and how long it will last; we don’t know the ripple effect to the UK or other housing markets. We don’t know the implications for – and how much needs to be written off by – various financial institutions,” said Jack Malvey, Lehman Brothers’ global fixed-income strategist, a highly experienced banker who colleagues say has the brain power of a super-computer.
A widely circulated Goldman Sachs report last month said more than $100 billion in additional bank write-offs and losses are on the horizon due to bad mortgage investments. And it warned that credit card debt and auto loans could be the next sectors to suffer.
Like a ticking time bomb, the national debt is an explosion waiting to happen. It's expanding by about $1.4 billion a day — or nearly $1 million a minute.
Even if you've escaped the recent housing and credit crunches and are coping with rising fuel prices, you may still be headed for economic misery, along with the rest of the country. That's because the government is fast straining resources needed to meet interest payments on the national debt, which stands at a mind-numbing $9.13 trillion.
That's $10,000,000,000,000.00, or one digit more than an odometer-style "national debt clock" near New York's Times Square can handle. When the privately owned automated clock was activated in 1989, the national debt was $2.7 trillion.
A major economic slowdown, as some economists suggest may be looming, could hasten the day of reckoning.
Susie Lee wanted to make a storm. It is not an easy thing to do. It's especially not easy for an artist who's never had a solo show in a commercial gallery before.
For her first big solo show, her coming-out party in the art world, when you walked in out of the real rain, she wanted you, for all sorts of reasons, to confront the virtual twin of what you'd just left behind.
First you'd find yourself in total darkness. Disorientation. There would be a several-second wait before anything happened, and in that time, you'd have no idea what was around you or who was in the room with you. As your eyes began to adjust, a crack of thunder would erupt from nowhere and the rain would start, building to a crescendo of drops hitting the floor—all achieved with only light and sound. It would be beguiling, and familiar, and unfamiliar, and then it would disappear, and for several minutes you'd be left in the dark again, wondering what just happened, wanting to feel it again, forced to wait.
1. Visitors - Pets can become overexcited, confused or frightened by the onslaught of holiday guests. Keep pets in a quiet part of the house and make sure they have a safe retreat from children and well-intentioned visitors. Keep pets' beds or kennels in a safe place and be sure guests know it's off limits.
2. Chocolate - Chocolate, which contains theobromine, is a serious pet-poisoning risk, especially for dogs. Bittersweet and baking chocolate, the kinds found in kitchens during the holidays, contain more theobromine than the average candy bar. If a dog eats chocolate, call a veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately.
3. Tinsel - Cats and kittens seem to find shiny tinsel especially appealing. If eaten, the thin pieces can cause the intestines to bunch up and can even cut through the intestinal wall. Either could be fatal.
4. Electric cords - Light strands, loose wires and electric cords can be a serious hazard to your pet. Some animals, especially puppies, may chew cords and put themselves at risk of serious burns or electric shock.
5. Noisemakers - To the sensitive ears of pets, fireworks, horns, bells and whistles can be extremely frightening. Make sure pets are in a safe place away from the noise and that they can't escape the house or yard. If fireworks are a particular problem around holidays, such as on New Year's Eve, talk to a veterinarian about getting some tranquilizers to help the pet.
6. Ornaments - Help prevent breaks and mishaps by keeping weighty ornaments close to the floor and valuable ornaments and family heirlooms out of reach of curious mouths, noses and wagging tails. Keep knickknacks on shelves inaccessible to animals. Tether Christmas trees to a nearby wall or window frame to protect for ferrets or cats that like to climb.
7. Candles - Candles should never be left burning unattended. Flames and shadows thrown by candles are tantalizing to pets. Make sure lit candles are always kept a safe distance away.
8. Decorative plants - Some plants and greenery, such as holly, ivy and mistletoe, can be very tempting but are toxic if a pet eats them. Keep all decorative plants out of reach or out of the home.
9. Overeating - Stick to a normal diet. Table scraps, garbage raiding and counter surfing can lead to an upset stomach. Too much rich food can lead to serious inflammation of the pancreas, which can be life-threatening.
10. New pets - There's no time worse than the holidays to bring a new pet into the home, but many people surprise a loved one with a new puppy or kitten on Christmas morning. The excitement can cause a new pet to be confused or overstimulated. Wait until the week after the holiday, and then puppy- or kitten-proof the house so the pet can be introduced into a quiet, safe environment. Don't forget to ask a veterinarian for advice on selecting a new pet.