Fireworks burst brightly and reflected off of the world's most famous landmarks as news swept from east to west on New Year's Eve. Spectacular views of Paris' Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument, London's Thames River and New York City's Times Square were televised in a steady sequence, making the vision of a peaceful, global community seem more possible than ever before.
One jarring, dissonant note heard amid the world's New Year's Eve celebration was the sound of round-the-clock shelling by Russian air and artillery forces in Chechnya. The bombing campaign is part of a Russian offensive that began last September after Chechen-based militants invaded a neighboring region and were blamed by Russia for apartment bombings in Moscow.
It has been a brief but bloody war with a high number of civilian casualties and a tremendous destructive pounding sustained by many Chechnya villages. The war shows no sign of ending quickly with the Russians thought to have the manpower to eventually wear down the stubborn Chechnya insurgents.
The most disheartening aspect is that the Russians probably couldn't wage this war without the subsidies and aid it receives from Western nations to keep its shaky ship afloat.
While the U.S. has a stake in seeing that Russia, which still possesses nuclear weapons, maintains a certain amount of stability we don't want to be put in the position of financing Russian wars.
Russia's war against Chechnya is tremendously popular with its citizenry, but that's probably because the Russian people have had little else to cheer about since the fall of communism. As a fledgling democracy Russia has seen devastating bank crises, the proliferation of protection rackets and the inability of its own government to collect taxes, pay pensions and perform other simple state functions.
Decision-makers with the United Nation's International Monetary Fund should certainly use what leverage they can to convince Russia to cease its hostilities, the next time Russia applies for a loan. Western nations don't want to micro-manage Russian affairs but a certain amount of diplomatic prodding is certainly fair game if Russia is going to continue to seek financial assistance from the IMF.
Common sense is paramount for those who ride snowmobiles
There's enough snow on the ground to keep snowmobilers happy -- and in danger, if they're unwise.
Two snowmobiler deaths in the past 10 days in Minnesota should serve as a reminder that though fun, a snowmobile is a fast-moving vehicle which can be every bit as deadly -- or more -- than a car.
Use common sense when riding. Wear your helmet. Make sure children learning to ride or drive snowmobiles take a safety class. If visibility is poor, don't go out. Let someone know where you're going every time you step out onto your new Yamaha.
Two deaths are too many.
-- Austin Daily Herald
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