Russian nuclear power, Inc.

Russia may have recently scrapped a missile defense deal with Iran -- but the Russians are now seemingly helping out another aspiring nuclear power/purpoted "axis of evil" stand-in: Venezuela.  

According to news reports,

Russia agreed ... to help build Venezuela's first nuclear power plant, sell it tanks and buy $1.6 billion of oil assets, reinforcing ties with President Hugo Chavez who shares Russian opposition to US global dominance.

The announcement comes at the end of a two-day visit to Moscow by Chavez; if Venezuela keeps this up, they may be able to take Iraq's beloved lost spot on the roster and become the media darling commentators have been longing to find.

While the agreement between the two powers is preliminary, the move is aimed at concerns over Venezuela's heavy dependence on oil. The Guardian reports, "Venezuela's economy is 94 or even 95% made up of oil... They [the Venezuelans] want to widen their sources of energy so they are less dependent on it."

In remarks that can only be interpreted as congratulatory, State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley stated, "This is something that we will watch... very, very closely."



Ayaan Hirsi Ali debates whether Islam is a religion of peace, wins in a rout

Intelligence Squared hosted some intellectual heavyweights on Oct. 6 to debate the motion: "Is Islam a religion of peace." Those who took part included Maajid Nawaz, the founder of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation, who argued in favor of the resolution, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP and critic of Islam, who argued against it.

The result? Hirsi Ali won in a landslide. Intelligence Squared polled the audience before and after the debate, and she prevailed over almost all of the undecided audience members and even a segment of those who had previously disagreed with her. Here's the hard data:

Before the debate:

41% FOR

After the debate:

36% FOR

This will be painted as a chilling sign of the rise of Western anti-Islam bigotry, but I'm not so sure that's clear. Obviously, Islam isn't a "peaceful" religion any more than, say, Christianity, Judaism, or Hinduism. If the audience was only convinced that the violent tendencies in Islam are on par with those religions, that does not necessarily mean that they're all about to become fans of Geert Wilders. If anyone had asked my vote, I would have told them that it's a stupid question.

Ian Waldie/Getty Images