Change is being implemented throughout the month of February in the latest South American country to lurch leftward. Voters in Bolivia approved a new constitution late last month that in the words of leftist President Evo Morales amounts to the nation “being re-founded.” About 60 percent of the electorate voted in favor of the document.
Like most members of the Baby Boomer generation who grew up watching movies about space exploration and following our nation's quest to put a man on the Moon, this writer entered the 21st century somewhat disappointed that space had not become quite as familiar a place as was depicted in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek.
President Barack Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, who arrived in Pakistan on February 9, met the next day with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani during a three-day visit. "I am here to listen and learn the ground realities of this critically important country," the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan quoted Holbrooke as saying upon his arrival in Pakistan.
Vice President Joseph Biden told attendees of the 45th annual Munich Security Conference that President Obama plans to have the United States continue its role as global cop under “strong partnerships.” Speaking for the new administration, Biden explained in his February 7 address that those partnerships include the NATO alliance (a United Nations regional affiliate). He urged that NATO take on a global role and "act in and out of area more effectively."
On February 5, we reported about the fate of the U.S. air base at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, which has played a key role in supplying the heavily American NATO forces in the ongoing military operation in Afghanistan — an operation that promises to expand into an ongoing war in the model of Iraq.
Kyrgyzstan's President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said on February 3 that his government had decided to shut down the U.S. air base at Manas. Manas air base has been the primary refueling and transport point from which U.S. flights into Afghanistan are dispatched, and its importance has grown as convoys supplying the U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan have increasingly been attacked while traveling over the Khyber Pass from Pakistan.
Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, announced on February 3 that on the previous day the Islamic nation had launched its first domestically produced satellite. (Although in October 2005, Iran's first satellite, the Sina-1, which carried photographic and telecommunications equipment, was placed in orbit by a Russian rocket.) Iranian state TV reported that the satellite was meant for telecommunication and research purposes.
For the second time in two days, the cease-fire between the Hamas Palestinian terrorist faction that controls Gaza and neighboring Israel was broken on February 2. On the previous day, Israeli aircraft — in retaliation for Hamas' Qassam rocket attacks against the Negev desert region of southwestern Israel — struck Hamas targets throughout Gaza. The exchange of fire continued on Monday, February 2, as Hamas fired mortar shells into Israel and the Israelis responded with missiles.
German Prime Minister Angela Merkel proposed a new “global financial architecture” at the Davos World Economic Forum on January 30. But press coverage of the five-day event (ending February 1) focused upon side events, such as the spat between Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the many other verbal slights at the event.
Cuban President Raul Castro began an eight-day visit in Russia on January 29, when he met informally with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a hunting lodge in Zavidovo, about 90 miles north of Moscow. More formal talks were held in the Kremlin the next day, where the two leaders signed a partnership pact between the two nations. It was the first visit by a Cuban leader to Russia since the end of the Cold War.
George J. Mitchell, the Obama administration's special Middle East envoy, traveled to Israel from Cairo on January 28 for a meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, then on to Ramallah,West Bank, the next day to meet with Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders. However, Mitchell had no plans to meet with representatives of Hamas. The United States, Israel, and the European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.