• Putin's Popularity : Russian President Vladimir Putin has moved quickly and with determination to renationalize the nation's oil and gas industry. And that's a popular move in Russia.
"Most Russians didn't like the idea of their natural resources being privatized, and they liked even less the way in which it was done in the 1990s," says Moscow correspondent Fred Weir. "The haphazard, corrupt fashion in which it was handled rankled many Russians. One of the key sources of Putin's popularity over the past six years has been his willingness to taken on the oligarchs who became wealthy during privatization."
• NGOs Watched: Russia's upper house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a law Tuesday imposing strict curbs on nongovernmental organizations. As reported on Dec. 6 "Russia reins in 'foreign influence,' " the Kremlin said the law was necessary to stop terrorists from using NGOs as fronts. Critics say the real intent was to stop NGOs that criticize the government, advocate democracy, and promote human rights. Among other things, the new bill requires all NGOs to report twice a year to a new agency and to prove they are not breaking any laws.
• Women Drivers: A poll published Tuesday says that 60 percent of Saudis surveyed agree that women should be allowed to drive in the Islamic kingdom, reports the Associated Press. On Dec. 7 the Monitor reported that a debate over the ban on women driving had been reignited in the country. The poll results were published in the Okaz daily newspaper two days after Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdel Aziz said that the Saudi government had no objections to women driving as long as "their fathers, husbands, and brothers" approved.
David Clark Scott