- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for Feb. 7 …


Russia's outspoken nationalist politician Vladimir Zhironivsky may finally have gone too far. He faces the loss of his position as deputy speaker in the Russian parliament after Russian TV broadcast footage their cameramen took at a private party in Baghdad last September. On an official visit to Iraq, Zhirinovsky was relaxing with his usual dedication when the cameras caught him vowing that President George W. Bush would soon be in a cell in Moscow's Butyrskaya prison. Then he turned unprintably to Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton, and finally started on Australia, which he threatened to send to the ocean floor. But American could be useful for one thing, he went on. Rather than bomb Iraq, it should join Russia in bombing Tbilisi and Baku, capitals of the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. The NTV and TVS channels have both screened the tape, but because they had to censor the rude bits, the sound track sounded like one long bleep.


Two senior Indian officers are facing court martial for leaving top-secret deployment details and plans on a computer hard disk that they then sent into a local commercial workshop for repair. The workshop installed a new disk, and then put the old one into another computer which went to a local university — where surprised students found themselves looking at the battle plans of India's 6th Armored Regiment in the highly sensitive Chhamb-Akhnoor sector, the site of repeated armored battles in previous wars with Pakistan.


More computer troubles in India. In West Bengal, heartland of the leftist bastion, a strike of local state employees called by the Socialist Unity Center of India, was only partially successful. But the computer blockade was a great success. West Bengal's state computers were out for 24 hours, emails to the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, were all bounced back and all links of the official website westbengalgov.org were blocked. West Bengal is trying hard to follow other Indian states into the hi-tech era, allowing births and deaths, passports and taxes, to be registered over the Web.


The oil-rich former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan was rocked last month when Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (and soon to be Turkey's prime minister) used his visit to Baku to accuse Azerbaijan of harboring elements of the Kurdish extremist PKK group. Now Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry has come down hard on local newspapers reporting the claim, demanding that the opposition newspapers Hurriyet and Yeni Musavat produce evidence or face criminal proceedings. In fact, their evidence was the same as that of Erdogan — the statement of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan at his trial.


Only the Russians would found a capital city in a swamp 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle on land belonging to someone else. On May 27, 1703, Tsar Peter the Great laid the symbolic cornerstone of the Peter-Paul fortress. As St. Petersburg prepares to celebrate its tercentenary, foreign governments are rushing to commemorate the anniversary with a flood of gifts ranging from the useless to plain bizarre. The Swedes, who used to own the site, have shipped 60 tons of ice cut from "ecologically clean rivers" to the Peter-Paul fortress to be used to construct a 30-foot tall, 6,500-square-foot ice palace. That project cost $500,000. France is donating a $3 million, 57-foot tall Tower of Peace. Etched panels will contain the word "peace" in 34 different languages using 14 different alphabets. Belgrade is sending an equestrian statue of Peter the Great, while Geneva is chiming in with a floral clock to be planted in the Aleksandrovskyi Gardens.

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