February has barely started and already I hate it and want it abolished. February 11 is the new August 22. Mark “Apocalypse” on your calendars, but just use a pencil in case it doesn’t pan out again. Even better news: we get to keep freaking out every time the Iranians have another morbid anniversary, because we haven’t taken them out yet. Isn’t that great? Fecklessness pays dividends. Appeasement is the gift that keeps on giving.
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Iran kicks off 10 days of celebrations on Thursday marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, with officials promising the unveiling of a major advance in its controversial nuclear drive. The festivities known as the “Decade of Fajr” (Dawn) culminate on February 11, the date 28 years ago when the US-backed Shah’s regime fell to revolutionaries led by the late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already said he will announce “good news” about the development of the nation’s nuclear programme during the anniversary celebrations.
The “Decade of Fajr” begins at 9:33 (0603 GMT) on Thursday, the exact time Khomeini landed at Tehran airport, making a triumphant return from exile in France greeted by massive crowds of fervent supporters.
As the clock strikes that minute, school and churches bells will toll, train and ship horns will be sounded and factory sirens wail.
Flowers will also be laid at Khomeini’s shrine in southern Tehran in the main cemetery where many of Iran’s war dead are buried.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s former president and the current head of its powerful arbitration body, will make a speech at the shrine, which marks the spot where Khomenei told throngs of his revolutionary supporters about the creation of an Islamic regime.
Iran’s outspoken populist president is then expected to make a speech on February 11 in the captial’s main Azadi (Freedom) square, where a 100-strong orchestra will play a “nuclear symphony”.
“Iranian people, with faith in God, wisdom and resistance, will defend their inalienable rights… and celebrate the realization of their peaceful nuclear rights during Fajr,” Ahmadinejad said Wednesday.
Venezuela's Congress on Wednesday granted President Hugo Chavez powers to rule by decree for 18 months as he tries to force through nationalizations key to his self-styled leftist revolution.
The vote allows anti-U.S. leader Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, to deepen state control of the economy.
The lawmakers, all loyal to Chavez after opposition parties boycotted the 2005 congressional elections, flaunted their populist credentials by taking the unusual step of holding their vote in public in a square in Caracas.
"We in the National Assembly will not waver in granting President Chavez an enabling law so he can quickly and urgently set up the framework for resolving the grave problems we have," said congressional Vice-President Roberto Hernandez.
The economic reforms are set to work in tandem with increased political centralization. Chavez is forging a single party to lead his radical reforms, stripping the central bank of autonomy and seeking indefinite re-election.
Chavez has targeted the oil industry and utilities, affecting many foreign owners and shareholders.
The opposition accuses Chavez of being a tyrant in the making, taking a slow-burning approach to following Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Chavez argues he will always tolerate opposition and will step down if he loses an election.
Opposition politician and newspaper editor Teodoro Petkoff on Tuesday wrote an editorial in his Tal Cual newspaper drawing parallels between the enabling law and Cuban Communism and European fascism in the 1930s.