-- In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI unleashed a barrage of criticism today against priests who ignore the Roman Catholic mandate for celibacy and who may also suggest that women could or should be priests. The pope suggested such priests were being selfish by ignoring his authority. No word on whether the pope was being selfish by asserting that authority.
-- In economically-distressed Italy, the justice system has everyone tearing their hair out. "Falsifying a one euro ($1.33) bus ticket in Italy is a criminal offence eligible for a full trial and two appeals that would cost the state many thousands of euros." Without a functioning justice system, any country risks its economic development... not to mention devolving into the anarchy of the Kalashnikov. Plans to impose austerity in the financially-beleaguered country are at the mercy of a judicial system hamstrung by its laws.
-- And speaking of Kalashnikovs, Viktor Bout, "The Merchant of Death," is scheduled to learn today how long he will spend in jail for being a successful arms dealer. For the U.S. to convict a man of being what the U.S. is spectacularly successful at has the same ludicrous aroma as convicting the guards at Abu Ghraib of torture. P.S. Here is a post-sentencing follow-up story.
-- The Kurds, historically consigned to nigger status by those who laid claim to what the Kurds consider their land, are taking another run at asserting their dignity and sovereignty. On Sunday, the Kurds shut off oil exports and accused Baghdad of failing to pay companies working in what is currently called the "autonomous region" of Kurdistan. "Autonomous," of course, is not the same as being free-standing. Oil being what oil is, the potential for a whizzing-bullet future gains impetus. Kurdistan says it has the power to control oil. Baghdad, and the rest of the world hungry for Kurdistan's black gold, disagrees ... and is probably willing to reassert its view of Kurdish second-class citizenship.