Signs and portents

Key stories in the news today raise so many unanswered questions that they seem to call for further analysis and interpretation. From Beijing, the AP reports that Chinese government advisers meeting in Beijing this week may consider a ban on lip synching by Chinese performers: “Chinese adviser urges lip synching ban.” Although this sounds like a development that may give ideas to our own Federal Election Commission, the story suggests that lip synching is the keystone of the state-sponsored arts scene. The proposed ban appears to emanate from Chinese rock star and artists’ rights advocate Cui Jian. According to the AP, the practice of lip synching is believed to be widespread in China, encouraged by a state-sponsored arts scene that churns out cookie-cutter performers with little real talent. Don’t we have the same problem? On a more straightforward note, the Age reports (also from Beijing) a huge buildup in Chinese assault forces apparently designed for an invasion of Taiwan: “US reveals China arms build-up.”
China has of course played a significant role in the development of Iran’s strategic offensive military capability. The Age reports that the Iranian government is esclating its public threats against the United States and Europe in connection with the mullahs’ desire to preserve Iran’s nuclear program: “Back off or suffer oil shock: Tehran.” I believe that Iran’s nuclear program was one of the subjects President Clinton discussed in addition to his paean to those “progressive” Iranian officeholders whom he claimed to “identify with” in Iran. In the audio clip of his Davos comments, Clinton opined that traditional nuclear deterrence would prevent Iran from using nuclear weapons, just as it did the Soviet Union. According to Clinton, Iran knows it would “be toast” if it launched a nuclear weapon. Smart as he is, Clinton does not appear to have observed that the effect of Islam on its most extreme practitioners has caused them to place a different value on the preservation of their own lives than he does on his.
The Tehran connection continues in the AP story on Hugo Chavez: “Chavez: Low oil rates a thing of the past.” The story notes that Chavez’s comments came ahead of a crucial OPEC meeting in Iran on March 16. Chavez is in India, and his comments bring us full circle to China. According to the story, “Chavez later flew to Calcutta [from New Delhi], where he said he was considering increasing oil trade with countries like India and China to ensure their fast economic growth.”
The AP story on the Italian journalist who was wounded by American troops at a checkpoint in Baghdad is another one that calls for interpretation beyond the available facts: “Wounded Italian journalist recalls ordeal.” Maria Sanminiatelli reports from Rome:

Giuliana Sgrena, who writes for the communist newspaper Il Manifesto, described how she was wounded and Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was killed as she was celebrating her freedom on the way to the airport. The shooting Friday has fueled anti-American sentiment in a country where people are deeply opposed to U.S. policy in Iraq (news – web sites).
“I remember only fire,” she said in her article. “At that point a rain of fire and bullets came at us, forever silencing the happy voices from a few minutes earlier.”
Sgrena said the driver began shouting that they were Italian, then “Nicola Calipari dove on top of me to protect me and immediately, and I mean immediately, I felt his last breath as he died on me.”
Suddenly, she said, she remembered her captors’ warning her “to be careful because the Americans don’t want you to return.”
The U.S. military said the Americans used hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and fired warning shots to get the car to stop. But in an interview Saturday with Italian La 7 TV, Sgrena said “there was no bright light, no signal.” She said the car was traveling at “regular speed.”

I think we need to send out an APB for a mystery writer like our friend Roger L. Simon to help us interpret this story.
UPDATE: Roger L. Simon has simultaneously answered the call and honored me with the case name: “The case of the Big Trunk.”


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