As America pauses to celebrate its independence, we must, dear reader, look abroad for this morning’s must reads.
* As you gear up for today’s festivities, Belarusans , who celebrated their independence day yesterday, are drinking pints of water and taking handfuls of ibuprofen. This will give you some indication of what the July 3rd party in Minsk looked like . It’s a distinctly Soviet affair — tanks, elderly men buckling under the weight of their medals, a cruel dictator with a thick mustache presiding over a hyperactive secret police known as the KGB. While Belarusans were distracted by this lavish and silly military parade, President Alexander Lukashenko’s flunkies were busy indicting a journalist from the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza for “libeling” him.
* Can you believe the unmitigated gall of Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation and founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum, who waltzed into a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva and asked that human rights abusers no longer be allowed to adjudicate on human rights abuses? Halvorssen, a Venezuelan national whose mother was shot by Hugo Chavez’s security forces during a protest march, was there to question the wisdom of allowing Venezuela to serve on a body supposedly concerned with political freedom and human rights. You can read Halvorssen’s account of being mau-maued by Cuba, China and Russia in the Huffington Post , or watch his (frequently interrupted) address below.
* Speaking of the erosion of freedom in Venezuela: Imagine if President Barack Obama had a terminal illness — which he addressed in only the vaguest terms — that affected his ability to perform the basic functions of the commander-in-chief performance. And despite this, he refused to tell journalists, staffers or the American people what he was afflicted with. It would, of course, be unthinkable. But Venezuelans know very little about Chavez’s cancer; his medical condition, including what type of cancer he is suffering from, is considered a state secret. But limited amounts of information has leaked — some of it contradictory — and now a doctor working in the presidential palace has been arrested. The BBC reports : “Prosecutors accused Dr Ana Maria Abreu of divulging political or military secrets over the past two years. . . . Dr Abreu is the sister-in-law of a prominent government critic Rocio San Miguel, who heads a group monitoring security and defence issues in Venezuela. Her defence team say her arrest is politically motivated.”
* According to ABC News, Iran has begun “The Great Prophet 7” military exercises, during which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “targeted and destroyed hypothetical bases of ultra-regional forces set up in desert areas.” In response, the Times reports, “The United States has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military from any possible attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz and to increase the number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iran if the standoff over its nuclear program escalates.” So to my question from yesterday: What would Mitt Romney do?
* It looks as if Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) i sin desperate need of tort reform. The London Times reports that the NHS “paid out a record £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) in compensation claims for clinical negligence” in 2011. And this isn’t just the cost of medical malpractice: “The bill for ‘non-clinical claims,’ including payments to people who fell and hurt themselves on wet floors where there was no sign, was £52.4 million ($81 million).”
Have a happy Fourth!