Saturday, November 25, 2006

Foreign News These Days Commands Attention, Both In Papers And On The Web

In Iraq, the Middle East and even London, where a former Soviet spy has died from radioactive poisoning, the news that counts these days is all foreign, and even with the recent change at the L.A. Times, that can't be ignored.

In both the L.A. and New York Times this morning, the lead stories are Iraq and the poisoning of Alexander V. Litvenenko, and this is true also on the newspapers' web sites. It is heartening to see the L.A. Times web site in particular, which has often been well behind the New York Times in key articles, but this morning successfully matches the NYT in its treatment both of the sectarian warfare in Iraq and the Litvenenko murder.

From Iraq, Solomon Moore, who has become a top war correspondent, depicts the real unraveling proceeding in Iraq, where the Shiite leader, Moktada al-Sadr, is now threatening to destroy the Maliki "government," if that is the word for it, if Premier Nouri al-Maliki goes ahead next week with a planned meeting with President Bush in Amman, Jordan. It is hard to fool Moore about anything. His comprehensive article this morning, both in the paper and on the web site, brings to Times readers essential information about the ever-worsening situation.

From London, L.A. Times writers Janet Stobart and Sebastian Rotella report that traces of radioactivity have been found in three London locations, following the death of Litvenenko from what was apparently a lethal dose of the rare radioactive element, Polonium 210, something that perhaps only a government laboratory (Russian?) could have produced. The L.A. Times also does a public service this morning in printing verbatim Litvenenko's death bed statement accusing Soviet President Vladimir Putin of responsibility in the macabre and ominous affair.

Both big newspapers also have comprehensive sidebars reporting on what Polonium 210, first discovered by the nobel prizewinner, Madame Curie, is and how dangerous it is.

These are very serious times. Even what is not widely printed is ominous. For instance, today, although neither the LAT nor NYT prints it, comes word in wire service articles on the Internet that the Thai government has been forced by Muslim violence to shut down the public school system in three southern provinces, where there have been a large number of continuing murderous attacks. Fundamentalist Muslim violence threatens the whole world, and both American and British forces are combatting it as best they can.

Also today, Vice President Cheney is reported to be in Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah on the issues in both Iraq and Lebanon, where Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are working to destroy a pro-Western government. In Lebanon, L.A. Times writer Megan Stack reports on how Shiites have begun attacking Sunnis, just as they do in Iraq.

Both big newspapers also have lengthy stories today on the declining U.S. dollar, which has reached the lowest level against the Euro in 20 months.

This preoccupation with foreign news must continue, because it affects all of our futures. Thank goodness, the L.A. Times still has an effective network of foreign correspondents. Californians cannot be kept in the dark about what is happening in this critical region, nor would any reasonably intelligent reader want to be.

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