The Long Rough Awakening of Russia Posted By Claudia Rosett

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Twenty years ago this Christmas day, Mikhail Gorbachev gave a speech announcing “I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” And with that, the totalitarian and murderous construct of the USSR, already uncoupled earlier that month by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus, was no more.

These were monumental events. Yet so tumultuous is the world right now that the 20th anniversary of the Soviet collapse is figuring as little more than a footnote in the news. In Russia itself, the events of the hour are the protests against the reign of Vladimir Putin, with tens of thousands of people bravely demonstrating in the freezing streets, alleging foul play in the recent parliamentary elections and, as the AFP reports [1], carrying banners with slogans such as “We woke up and this is only the beginning.”

If so, it has been a long beginning. Twenty years have passed since Russia officially embarked on its awakening. An entire new generation has come of age, and the years since Christmas of 1991 have been filled with trouble, disappointments, crude grabs for Russia’s colossal natural resources, the fading of freedoms once promised, and the rise of a new autocracy. There would be room for a more joyous celebration of the Soviet collapse, were there less call to deplore a great deal of what has followed.


Civil War as the Second-Best Option Posted By David P. Goldman
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The best is the enemy of the good, Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. liked to say. The best option for the Muslim states of the Middle East and Western and Central Asia is liberal democracy. That, I have argued for years, is unattainable. For years, the second-best option was a dictatorship friendly to American interests. That option collapsed with the Tunisia uprising a year ago, when it became clear that the dictatorships could not even reward subservience with nutritional security (as I wrote last Feb. 2 under the title, “Food and Failed Arab States“). Sixty years of Nasserite dictatorship left Egypt with 45% illiteracy, unemployed and unemployable youth, and 50% dependency on food imports.

Now the options in Egypt appear to be stable rule by the Muslim Brotherhood, or disintegration. Which benefits American interests more?

The options in Syria are similar: continuing civil war between Muslim Brotherhood-led Sunnis and the Alawite Assad regime. Which do we prefer — a stable ally of Iran, or chaos?

Egypt Islamists take two-thirds of 2nd-round vote By Sherine El Madany
Egypt Islamists take two-thirds of 2nd-round vote By Sherine El Madany

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s two leading Islamist parties won about two-thirds of votes for party lists in the second round of polling for a parliament that will help draft a new constitution after decades of autocratic rule, the election committee said Saturday.

The party list led by the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won 36.3 percent of the list vote, while the ultra-conservative Salafi al-Nour Party took 28.8 percent, pushing the liberal Wafd party into third place.

The vote, staged over six weeks, is the first free election Egypt has held after the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who routinely rigged polls before he was overthrown by a popular uprising in February.

The West long looked to Mubarak and other strongmen in the region to help combat Islamist militants, and has watched warily as Islamist parties have topped votes in Tunisia, Morocco and now Egypt.

Parliament’s prime job will be appointing a 100-strong assembly to write a new constitution which will define the president’s powers and parliament’s clout in the new Egypt.

Second-round results for party lists gave the liberal Wafd Party 9.6 percent of the vote. The Egyptian Bloc of mostly liberal and leftist parties won 7 percent of the list vote.

Terror attacks across Nigeria by a radical Muslim sect killed at least 39 people, with the majority dying on the steps of a Catholic church after celebrating Christmas Mass as blood pooled in dust from a massive explosion.

Authorities on Sunday acknowledged they could not bring enough emergency medical personnel to care for the wounded outside St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla near Nigeria’s capital. Elsewhere, a bomb exploded amid gunfire in the central Nigeria city of Jos and a suicide car bomber attacked the military in the nation’s northeast as part of an apparently coordinated assault by the sect known as Boko Haram.

The Christmas Day violence, denounced by world leaders and the Vatican, shows the threat of the widening insurrection posed by Boko Haram against Nigeria’s weak central government. Despite a recent paramilitary crackdown against the sect in the oil-rich nation, it appears that Africa’s most populous nation remains unable to stop the threat.

Read the original article at Associated Press

West worries as 20-something sits on N. Korea’s nuclear stockpile
Russian space program struggles as satellite crashes into ‘cosmonaut’ street
DOJ reverses decades of policy to legalize online betting
Obamas live it up in 6,000-square-foot Hawaiian home
Ancient seal found in Jerusalem confirms written record
Sudan army kills key rebel leader

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Criticism of Leon Panetta’s demand that Israel “return to the damn table,” and Tom Friedman’s lament that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ovation before Congress “was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” has been broad and deep. Writers from right to center (forget the left, who applauded both) denounced them, parsed them and tried to put them “in context.” It is the context that is worrisome rather than their less-than-lovely language. The context is that if Israel and the Palestinians would both negotiate seriously, they would get to the “Two State Solution” beloved of the US and the Quartet.

Grant Panetta and Friedman the “damn table” and see what happens:

IF Israel sat at the table; IF Netanyahu agreed to a permanent settlement freeze; IF the Palestinians returned to the table; IF the Palestinians came under the “moderate” mandate of Fatah rather than “extremist” mandate of Hamas; IF they started with the 1949 Armistice Lines (the so-called 67 borders); IF they talked themselves blue in the face, they STILL would not get where Panetta, Friedman, et. al. want them to go.


An Austrian appellate court has upheld the conviction of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a Viennese housewife and anti-Jihad activist, for “denigrating religious beliefs” after giving a series of seminars about the dangers of radical Islam.

The December 20 ruling shows that while Judaism and Christianity can be disparaged with impunity in postmodern multicultural Austria, speaking the truth about Islam is subject to swift and hefty legal penalties.

Although the case has major implications for freedom of speech in Austria, as well as in Europe as a whole, it has received virtually no press coverage in the American mainstream media.

Sabaditsch-Wolff’s Kafkaesque legal problems began in November 2009, when she presented a three-part seminar about Islam to the Freedom Education Institute, a political academy linked to the Austrian Freedom Party.


U.S. Embraces Low-Key Plan as Turmoil in Iraq Deepens

WASHINGTON — As Iraq erupted in recent days, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was in constant phone contact with the leaders of the country’s dueling sects. He called the Shiite prime minister and the Sunni speaker of the Parliament on Tuesday, and the Kurdish leader on Thursday, urging them to try to resolve the political crisis.
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Sabah Arar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Iraq tightened security measures on Saturday at the entrance to a Christian church in Baghdad.

And for the United States, that is where the American intervention in Iraq officially stops.

Sectarian violence and political turmoil in Iraq escalated within days of the United States military’s withdrawal, but officials said in interviews that President Obama had no intention of sending troops back into the country, even if it devolved into civil war.


Abu Mazen’s December 20, 2011 public embrace of Amna Muna – a ruthless Palestinian terrorist –exposes Abu Mazen’s authentic ideology. Notwithstanding Abu Mazen’s moderate demeanor, the televised session with Amna Muna, and other Palestinian terrorists, was consistent with Abu Mazen’s own K-12 hate-education system, which heralds terrorism, in general, and suicide bombing, in particular. It is compatible with the monthly allowances paid by Abu Mazen’s administration to families of suicide bombers and imprisoned terrorists; with his naming of streets, squares and sport tournaments after terrorists; with his 50 years track record as Arafat’s top confidant and deputy; with his holocaust denial Ph.D. thesis at Moscow University; with his involvement in the 1972 Munich Massacre of eleven Israeli Olympians; with his active support of the 1990 Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait; with his betrayal of Syria’s Hafiz Assad, Jordan’s King Hussein, Lebanon’s government and Kuwait’s Sheikh Sabah; with his stewardship of PLO-Communist Bloc ties and his KGB training.

While Western policy-makers and public opinion molders assume that Abu Mazen has renounced terrorism and violence, the “Good Cop” accords enhances the legitimacy of Amna Muna, whom fellow female terrorists named “the Ramallah Satan” for her sadistic virulence, biting and pouring boiling wax and oil on the face of those who dared challenge her.


Into The Fray: Some will consider this article provocative – especially if they deem “resettling” as more heinous than “recurrence of war.”

Consideration should be given even to the heroic remedy of transfer of populations… the hardship of moving is great, but it is less than the constant suffering of minorities and the constant recurrence of war.

– Former US president Herbert Hoover, five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee

With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.

– Andrei Sakharov, 1975 Nobel Peace laureate

The collapse of the Oslo process demonstrate[s] that certain long-held “truths” about the conflict need to be turned on their head…. The US should launch an international initiative that would provide economic support for refugees in neighboring states… [and] incentive packages for patriation to non-neighboring states, including in the West.

– Scott Lasensky, 1999, recipient of the Yitzhak Rabin-Shimon Peres Peace Award, Tel Aviv University

As expected, US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s characterization of Palestinians as an “invented people” unleashed a maelstrom of responses – some commending his daring, others condemning his temerity to challenge the precepts of conventional wisdom.


Ireland funds cultural boycott of Israel Dozens of Irish artists who have signed petition urging boycott against Jewish state are financed by government bodies, Foreign Ministry report reveals,7340,L-4165549,00.html

This is particularly painful because the Irish have a significant history in supporting Israel. Here, in the US Irish -American politicians – Hugh Carey, Paul O’Dwyer, Patrick Moynihan to name only a handful were Israel’s staunch defenders. Chaim Herzog, Israel’s late ambassador to the UN and then president was born in Ireland. Dublin had a Jewish mayor…..rsk
The Irish government has been funding 34 local artists who signed a petition calling for a cultural boycott against Israel, a classified Foreign Ministry report reveals.

These artists make up one-fifth of all performers receiving public funding in Ireland.