Friday, December 5, 2008

Russians Jail Pessimistic Financial Analyst

RIGA, Latvia -- Hammered by economic woe, this former Soviet republic recently took a novel step to contain the crisis. Its counterespionage agency busted an economist for being too downbeat.

"All I did was say what everyone knows," says Dmitrijs Smirnovs, a 32-year-old university lecturer detained by Latvia's Security Police. The force is responsible for hunting down spies, terrorists and other threats to this Baltic nation of 2.3 million people and 26 banks.

Now free after two days of questioning, Mr. Smirnovs hasn't been charged. But he is still under investigation for bad-mouthing the stability of Latvia's banks and the national currency, the lat. Investigators suspect him of spreading "untruthful information." They've ordered him not to leave the country and seized his computer.

Hmmm... maybe I'd better be more careful, or more grateful that I live in the U.S. But then, given that the Obama campaign wrote not-so-subtle threatening letters to a radio station airing views he disliked -- and to the FCC to investigate it -- maybe that gratitude should be tempered.

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