A bit of backbone under new leadership

There was Chancellor Merkel's welcome of Dubya back in July that was a good sign. I also read about this a while back but didn’t think much of it, maybe it was all just a spontaneous show of backbone strength.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized the current prison conditions of the founder of the former Russian oil firm Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In a letter to FDP chief Westerwelle, German chancellor Angela Merkel wrote that she had repeatedly pointed out to Russian president Vladimir Putin that prison conditions for Khodorkovsky - once the richest man in Russia - were simply unacceptable.

She urged the Russian government to adhere to international standards. The founder of the former top oil producer Yukos is serving his prison sentence in Siberia in very harsh conditions meant to isolate him completely from the outer world.

"He was placed in solitary confinement several times," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said. "And he's being treated in a very arbitrary way. If he drinks his tea in the wrong place, he faces severe punishment, for instance. And then there was the incident in which he was attacked with a knife by another inmate and injured in his face. Which goes to show that Khodorkovsky isn't safe in this camp, and this is what we're criticizing and what needs to be changed."

I may be speaking too soon, but it appears the Germans have been working on strengthening their spinal region.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cancelled a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on short notice because of a speech the president gave blaming Israel and the US for tensions in the region. He said a speech given by Assad earlier on Tuesday was "a negative contribution that does not do justice to the present challenges and opportunities in the Middle East."

Through positive, constructive action, Syria could regain the lost trust of the international community, he added.

In his speech, the Syrian president praised Hezbollah in its fight against Israel, describing resistance against the "enemy" as legitimate even as Israel said it should prepare for talks.

"I say to all those who accuse Syria of taking the side of the resistance that this is, for the Syrian people, an honor," he said in a wide-ranging speech that also took aim at Washington and anti-Damascus figures in Lebanon.

Hope its a sign of things to come, the free world can use all the help it can get.

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