February 2008

Feb 1  Saudi authorities believe they have a more than 70 percent success rate in their program re-educating imprisoned young men away from what had been their violent and "deviant" form of Islam. Those who have successfully completed this "de-radicalization" program, according to a BBC report by Frank Gardner, "can be offered government help in starting a business, securing a job, a car, or even a wife." 

Feb 1  Former NATO commander and Marine Corps Commandant General James Jones testified yesterday before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "Make no mistake," he said, "NATO is not winning in Afghanistan." Canada announces that its soldiers will not stay in Afghanistan unless NATO deploys more troops in southern Afghanistan, and Germany rejects a US plea to send more troops there.

Feb 3  Norway is leading the United States in per capita GDP, and it's judged by a United Nations index as the best place to live in the world (despite its cold winters and high tax rate). Meanwhile, Norwegians are concerned about the lack of knowledge of history among its high school students. Sixty-five percent are said not to know who Pol Pot was. Sixty-four percent do not know what the Gulag means. More than 25 percent of students polled could not identify Mao Zedong, and 75 percent had never heard of the "Great Leap Forward" attempted in China under Mao's leadership.

Feb 4  Serbia's President Boris Tadic was challenged in yesterday's election by Tomislav Nikolic, described by the BBC as a pro-Moscow candidate. Tadic is looking forward to Serbia's membership in the European Union. The elections were orderly and ended with cordiality.

Feb 6  In the bellwether state of New Jersey, Republican candidates running for their party's nomination for president together garnered 554,894 votes. Democratic Party candidates garnered 1,104,101 votes – almost twice as many. (With 99 percent of the precincts reporting.) For Missouri, another bellwether state, it was 820,453 to 584,618 in favor of the Democrats. The Republican Party, the party of President Bush, is in trouble regarding elections coming in November.

Feb 7  The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, approaches the realization that al Qaeda has been pursuing a losing political-military strategy – as we have seen recently in hostility toward al Qaeda in Iraq. McConnell tells Congress that "Most victims of al Qaeda attacks are Muslims." He adds that "In the last year to 18 months, al-Qaida has had difficulty in fundraising and sustaining themselves."

Feb 11  Norway's Police Security Service (PST) reports that Russian spying in Norway has reached levels as high as during the Cold War.

Feb 11  In the US, four are arrested, accused of passing secret defense information to China.

Feb 12  In the Philippines, 16 women and four of their husbands, described as economically poor, are going to court to force a decision whether local government officials can ban family planning services.

Feb 13  The international criminal and killer of numerous innocent civilians, Mughniyeh, has been assassinated. He was on Europe's terrorist list and the US most wanted list until replaced by bin Laden in 2001. Hezbollah identifies him as one of their senior commanders and "a great jihadist leader " – while it denies that it is a terrorist organization. The Syrian government describes the assassination "a cowardly, terrorist act" and expresses "condolences to the martyr family and to the Lebanese people."

Feb 14  In the US the end-of-winter worry about honey bees is approaching. The Varroa mite, considered responsible for destroying bees, is reported to be developing resistance to chemicals that have been applied to kill the mites. It's an evolutionary process: those few mites that are resistant survive and mulitiply while the non-resistent mites die.

Feb 15  New York's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, trashes the stimulus package signed into law by President Bush on the 13th. He joins those who want sacrifice for the future rather than party now and deficit spending. Bloomberg, a Republican, praises candidate Obama's plan for a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to stimulate the economy by rebuilding highways, bridges, airports and other public projects.

Morley Safer

Morley Safer interviews Danes about happiness.

Feb 15  Data from the United Nations suggest that 75 percent of crop varieties in the world have become extinct in the last one hundred years.

Feb 17  Kosovo's parliament declares Kosovo an independent and sovereign state. The United States, Britain, France and other European Union states are in support of the will of the majority in Kosovo. Serbs are opposed. Russia is expressing its opposition in the UN Security Council.

Feb 17 In the US, the television program "Sixty Minutes" has a piece describing the Danes as the "happiest" people. The Danes pay taxes that are 50 percent of their income. Humor, perhaps: although lower taxes serve individualism, lower taxes do not necessarily serve happiness.

Feb 18  In appearing for a news conference with the former president, George H.W. Bush, candidate McCain faults those who have not supported the surge. He says that had the US followed their advice, al Qaeda would have won in Iraq. Some who question McCain's judgment do not credit al Queda's tactics as effective and suspect that without US troops al Qaeda would have become no more popular in Iraq than they are now.

Feb 19  In parliamentary elections, voters in Pakistan reject religious fervor, leaving Islamic parties with little support. The political party that had been led by the late Benazir Bhutto and the party of the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, together gain more than 50 percent of the vote. The party of President Musharraf wins only 13 percent of the vote.

Feb 20  Spain opens a high-speed rail link between Madrid and Barcelona – transport that reach a speed of 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour.

Feb 24  Hillary Clinton suggests that her rival for the Democratic Party nomination for president, Barrack Obama, is too sweetness oriented rather than ready for tough confrontation. Speaking to a crowd at Rhode Island College she says: "Now, I could stand up here and say, 'Let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified,' The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect."

Feb 25  It is widely reported that an increasing demand for energy in nations with a growing middle class, as in China, raises the price of energy and the price of food. Also demand for bio-fuels are cutting into the availability of food. The UN reports today of these developments creating an inability to maintain current food aid levels.

Feb 26  A vault deep in an arctic mountain, for every variety of seed specie, opens in Norway. The seed collection is organized by Global Crop Diversity Trust.

Feb 28  Cuba signs two human rights agreements at the United Nations, committing it to freedom of expression and association and the right to travel abroad.

Feb 28  In Kenya, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, overcomes bickering by creating a power sharing agreement between President Kibaki and opposition leader, Raila Odinga. Remaining to be accomplished is reconciliation among Kenyan citizens.

Feb 29  In the US, election campaigns are challenging thought processes. An hispanic woman in Texas, supporting Hillary Clinton, complains that blacks have not been adequately supporting her community, as if Barack Obama represents blacks in general. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton asked people not to vote for her because she is a woman, but in the debate on the 26th she reversed herself and made such an appeal. We will not hear Obama asking for votes because he is black, and largely the public is gauging Obama as an individual. People in the US are displaying some fair-mindedness. A gallop poll from a year ago states that 5 percent would not vote for a black, 11 percent not for a woman, 42 percent would not vote for someone over 72, 43 percent not for a homosexual and 53 percent would not vote for an atheist. We'll probably see some new figures on this subject soon.

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