A who’s who of the world’s thug leaders are gathering in Caracas for the state funeral of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez today.
Responding to a threat of new UN sanctions, North Korea never tires of playing a familiar script: It will abandon all treaties with South Korea and strike the United States with its next nuclear weapon. The regime’s belligerence is a well-rehearsed play to get the West crawling back to the negotiating table.
What would pipe down the North? Peaceful reunification of the peninsula, says former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. And, it’s not as farfetched as you think, if China and the United States do the deal.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday sent Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a letter saying, “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.” Paul launched a widely publicized12-hour filibuster earlier this week to halt the confirmation of John Brennan to head the CIA in Barack Obama’s second term. Paul wanted clarification on U.S. drone policy concerning Americans on U.S. soil. Brennan as White House counterterrorism adviser authored the Obama drone policy that’s included targeting Americans linked to terrorism overseas. Yesterday the Senate confirmed Brennan for the post.
Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim will not attend today’s State Department awards ceremony honoring “women of courage” on International Women’s Day. Ibrahim made jubilant comments via Twitter about Israelis killed in a terrorist attack in Bulgaria last year, and about 9/11 attacks. After Samuel Tadros, writing in the Weekly Standard, revealed the tweets on her account, going back to last summer, she has claimed that her account was hacked.
British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed calls from one of his own ministers to reverse economic policy. UK Business Secretary Vince Cable said the government should “borrow more, at current very low interest rates, in order to finance more capital spending. …” (Stimulus package, anyone?) Cameron said that strategy could lead to crippling interest rates: “It’s as if they think there’s some magic money tree. Well, let me tell you the plain truth: there isn’t. Getting taxes down to help hard-working people can only be done by taking tough decisions on spending.”
With Sulaiman Abu Ghaith heading to a New York courtroom today, here’s a good backgrounder on the son-in-law to Osama bin Laden and spokesman for al-Qaeda. Despite legit questions about whether he should be tried in a civil court or military tribunal, credit’s due to the Obama administration for its terrorist hunt. Said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. (often a loud Obama critic): “Definitely, one by one, we are getting the top echelons of al-Qaeda. … I give the administration credit for this: it’s steady and it’s unrelenting and it’s very successful.”
Italians smoke more, eat more starch, and earn less on average than Brits, yet studies show they live on average 18 months longer than the English. It may be a Mediterranean diet—with all that fish and fresh vegetables—but it may be something else: Italians spend less public funds on healthcare. Alan Maryon-Davis, honorary professor of public health at King’s College London, speculates that the more comprehensive British National Health Service has made “many people feel that they can ignore their health for decades in the expectation that the NHS will be there to bail them out when they get into trouble.”
One of Iraq’s key Shiite leaders has proposed a national public conference on threats to the future of Iraq’s Christian population. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Qusay Abdul Wahab al-Suhail made the suggestion to a group of visiting Lebanese Christian clergy upon the naming of a new Chaldean patriarch in Iraq.
Suhail’s Sadrist party, a nemesis to U.S. forces in Iraq and architect of the mid-2000s insurgency, wants to transform itself from a militant organization to a respected political movement. Early this year, Muqtada Sadr, its leader, attended a Christian service in a Chaldean church in central Baghdad.
Long weekend read: Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, is in the midst of a 10-part series on “how the world forgot Iraq” as this month marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion. “Iraq is disintegrating as a country under the pressure of a mounting political, social and economic crisis,” he learns, “to a point just short of civil war.”