16 August 2003

Guardian Unlimited Politics | David Clark: Iraq has wrecked our case for humanitarian wars:
The gap here could scarcely be wider. Humanitarian interventionists aspire to a world order based on the universal and disinterested pursuit of justice. Neo-conservatives are motivated by the selective and self-interested pursuit of their own geopolitical goals. This rapaciously ideological project starts from the proposition that the American social and economic mode represents the ideal form to which all other forms must ultimately comply. In what the neo-cons call this 'distinctly American internationalism', US national interests and the interests of humanity are indivisible. It remains to be seen what happens when this assumption collides with the reality of an Iraq determined to make choices that conflict with the White House.

As long as US power remains in the hands of the Republican right, it will be impossible to build a consensus on the left behind the idea that it can be a power for good. Those who continue to insist that it can, risk discrediting the concept of humanitarian intervention and thereby render impossible the task of mobilising the international community to act in the future. Indeed, the backlash has already started. At last month's conference on progressive governance, the assembled leaders rejected the section of Blair's draft communique supporting the principle that the responsibility to protect trumps state sovereignty.

The problem is this: the interventionists who supported the Iraq war want those of us who didn't to believe that George Bush is a 'useful idiot' in the realisation of Blair's humanitarian global vision. We can only see truth in the opposite conclusion.

I supported East Timor. I supported Afghanistan. I support the Solomons. I think The responsibility to protect has the balance right. Iraq does not meet the threshold conditions laid out in that report. No last resort. No right authority. No reasonable prospects. What we end up with is a failing occupation built on half-truths and whole lies executed by a bungling cabal who believe the facts on the ground do not matter as long as the spin in Washington falls in their favour.

And the international consensus for the responsibility to protect that was built in Kosovo has been shattered in Iraq. We cannot blame Bush, Howard or the neocons for the shattered consensus. It was all Blair's doing and will almost certainly prove his undoing.

Power Outage Traced To Dim Bulb In White House:
Is tonight's black-out a surprise? Heck, no, not to us in the field who've watched Bush's buddies flick the switches across the globe. In Brazil, Houston Industries seized ownership of Rio de Janeiro's electric company. The Texans (aided by their French partners) fired workers, raised prices, cut maintenance expenditures and, CLICK! the juice went out so often the locals now call it, 'Rio Dark.'

So too the free-market cowboys of Niagara Mohawk raised prices, slashed staff, cut maintenance and CLICK! -- New York joins Brazil in the Dark Ages.

Californians have found the solution to the deregulation disaster: re-call the only governor in the nation with the cojones to stand up to the electricity price fixers. And unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. Gray Davis stood alone against the bad guys without using a body double. Davis called Reliant Corp of Houston a pack of 'pirates' --and now he'll walk the plank for daring to stand up to the Texas marauders.

So where's the President? Just before he landed on the deck of the Abe Lincoln, the White House was so concerned about our brave troops facing the foe that they used the cover of war for a new push in Congress for yet more electricity deregulation. This has a certain logic: there's no sense defeating Iraq if a hostile regime remains in California.

Sitting in the dark, as my laptop battery runs low, I don't know if the truth about deregulation will ever see the light --until we change the dim bulb in the White House.

Auckland also had major power problems after their system as rescued from the fat and bloated public sector and handed over to the lean and hungry private sector. Meanwhile back in Oz, we are trying to establish a nationwide electricity grid even though the huge distances between major population centres make efficient transmission an order of magnitude less efficient than in the US. The productivity commission itself accepts losses on the order of 5-10%, but mere physical reality does not constrain an economic rationalist in full flight. Nor, apparently, does the complex system problem.

ABCNEWS.com : Iraqis Offer Tips Over U.S. Blackout:
Here is a top 10 list compiled on the streets of Baghdad:

10: SLEEP ON THE ROOF. Without power and hence without air conditioning Iraqis have taken to climbing up stairs in the hot nights. Some install metal bed frames on rooftops, while others simply stretch out on thin mattresses. 'We sleep on the roof,' said Hadia Zeydan Khalaf, 38, wearing a black head-to-toe abaya in the hot sun. 'It's cooler there.'

9: SIT IN THE SHADE. Many Iraqis go outside when the power's off. 'We sit in the shade,' said George Ruweid, 27, playing cards with friends on the sidewalk. Of the U.S. blackout, he said: 'I hope it lasts for 20 years. Let them feel our suffering.'

8: HEAD FOR THE WATER. 'We go to the river, just like in the old days,' said Saleh Moayet, 53. Several people said they had seen American beaches on television, and suggested they might be a good place to sit out the blackout. 'They have so many beautiful beaches,' said Hamid Khelil, 44. 'They should go where it isn't so hot.'

7: SHOWER FREQUENTLY. 'I take showers all day,' said Raed Ali, 33. 'Before I go up to the roof to sleep, I take a shower and I'm cooler.'

6: BUY BLOCKS OF ICE. When refrigerators shut down, there's no better way to keep food cool. Mohammed Abdul Zahara, 24, sells about 20 a day from a roadside table. 'When it's hot people buy a lot of ice,' he said.

5: CHECK FOR BITTER-ENDERS. 'They should go to the power stations and see what the problem is,' suggested Ahmed Abdul Hussein, 21. 'Maybe there are followers of Saddam Hussein who are sabotaging their power stations. That's what happens here.'

4: GET A GENERATOR. Abbas Abdul al-Amir, 53, has one of a long row of shops selling generators in Baghdad's Karadah shopping street. When the power goes out, sales go up. 'I sell about 30 generators a day,' he said. 'When the shutdown lasts I can sell even more.'

3: CALL IN THE IRAQIS. Some suggested the Americans ask the Iraqis how to get the power going again. 'Let them take experts from Iraq,' said Alaa Hussein, 32, waiting in a long line for gas because there was no electricity for the pumps. 'Our experts have a lot of experience in these matters.'

2: USE FOUL LANGUAGE. 'When the power goes out, I curse everybody,' said Emad Helawi, a 63-year-old accountant. 'I curse God. I curse Saddam Hussein. And I curse the Americans.'

And the No. 1 suggestion among Iraqis for Americans suffering without power: TAKE TO THE STREETS. Some said demonstrations can be effective in persuading authorities to turn on the switch. 'We held protests. After that we had fewer blackouts,' Ahmed Abdul Hussein said without even a hint of sarcasm. 'I'd suggest Americans go out and demonstrate.'

See This is not a blog for what Iraqis might think when restoring power in the US takes 24 hours and in Iraq takes 4 months.

Arianna for Governor! :
(Wednesday, August 6, 2003) Today I am announcing that I am running for Governor of the great state of California.

Those are 16 words I never imagined I would hear myself say. And they are in no way based on the findings of British intelligence.

I know this quote is antique in blogosphere time, but it's worth recording.

The Sesquipedalian | Squirrels :
I'm convinced (in a fair and balanced way, mind you) that the continuing blackout in the American Northeast and Canada was actually caused by a squirrel in the transformer. You people that live out on the rural routes will know what I mean.

In fact, we should launch an immediate investigation into squirrel terrorism, focusing on groups like Squir El Islamia, the Al Aqsa Squirrel Brigades and others. A blackout this large could only have been caused by hundreds, maybe thousands of squirrels sacrificing their own lives in concert to bring down the Northeast power grid!

I myself personally am frequently accused of being either sesquipedalian or pleonastic so I view this blog's title with a high degree of both satisfaction and approbation. But I digress.

I guess the question all ordinary Australians want to know is when will the man of steel do something about the squirrel threat? Doesn't he know we care about hoarder protection?

7.30 Report | Snark of the Week:
KERRY O'BRIEN: Former Republican speaker Newt Gingrich is on the Pentagon advisory board.

As you well know, he's been vehement in his attacks on the State Department and by implication you and Colin Powell.

What's behind that, what's motivating him?

[US Deputy Secretary of State] RICHARD ARMITAGE: I think he wants to do to the State Department what he almost did to the Republican Party.

No-one can get inside his mind.

I made a rather facetious comment that got good airplay and I think I'll let it stay at that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That he'd run out of his medication?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: I said he was off his meds and out of therapy.

His main accusation against the Secretary of State and the Department of State was that we weren't trying to pursue the President's policy and nothing is more outrageous.

We're exactly on the President's policy as George W Bush would be glad to say.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Is it any more than that kind of traditional argument between muscle and diplomacy, right now to the point where even Colin Powell's trip to Syria to Damascus to see President Assad has been criticised because Assad still has links to terrorist groups?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: The same gentleman, and I use the term lightly, Newt Gingrich who levelled the criticism against the secretary was critical of the trip to Syria.

You don't think that trip to Syria happened without the blessing and indeed urging of the President, do you?

It's been a while since I found any decent vitriol, so I thought I'd run with this one.

Sydney Morning Herald | A disgrace of the old school:
And yes, we know just how grateful Dick Honan is for the Prime Minister's 'support for ethanol, and biofuels generally'. Why we know is because Labor's Kerry O'Brien, Simon Crean's primary industries spokesman, asked this year, under freedom of information, for all documents relating to the ethanol subsidy decision. After waiting five months, O'Brien got copies of 70 documents in dribs and drabs, a number heavily censored. Included was the following self-serving letter from Honan to Howard.

If the FOI request took 5 months and Labor accepted a donation from Honan 2 months ago then the opposition was accepting donations from a company they suspected of shonky dealings. That probably speaks to incompetence, rather than corruption but it will probably enable Howard to fight another day. When will the opposition get serious?

15 August 2003

Salon.com News | The toxic fallout of 9/11:
The building was directly downwind of the plume of toxic debris pumped through Manhattan and Brooklyn by the force of the Trade Center collapse, and it provides one of the best records of what made up the cloud. For months after the attacks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency insisted that the dust contained few contaminants and posed little health risk to anyone but those caught in the initial plume from the towers' collapse. 'Everything we've tested for, which includes asbestos, lead, and volatile organic compounds, have been below any level of concern for the general public health,' Christine Todd Whitman, then the Bush administration's EPA chief, told PBS 'NewsHour' in April 2002. Even last December, assistant regional EPA administrator Kathleen Callahan reiterated that assessment before the New York City Council: 'I think the results that we're getting back show that there isn't contamination everywhere.'

But Deutsche Bank's owners, curious to know the extent of their liability and to properly evaluate the potential danger to their own employees, privately conducted their own extensive tests. The findings: Astronomical levels of asbestos and a long list of toxic ingredients that pose a significant risk of cancer, birth defects, nerve damage and other ominous health problems.

More than 2,000 buildings in lower Manhattan were exposed to the same wave of debris and dust, and many were filled with residents and office workers within days after the attacks. Today, the Deutsche Bank findings and an emerging body of studies by private agencies and the EPA itself sharply contradict the initial EPA assessment and suggest that the federal government overlooked a substantial threat that could ultimately harm more people than the terrorist attacks.

Another example of a rightwing government subordinating everything, including the health of those very emergency workers who were getting such fulsome praise from the same government, to considerations of national security. Sadly by the time the health stats start piling up Bush and his administration will be long gone and invulnerable to accountability.

The Independent | 3,000 die during French heatwave:
There have been around 3,000 people heat-related deaths in France since abnormally high temperatures swept across the country two weeks ago, the health ministry said today.

Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei acknowledged the blistering heat wave has caused a 'veritable epidemic' of death in France.

As reported here, the World Meteorological Organisation links the northern hemisphere heatwave to global warming. Why is environmental security so much less urgent than the War on Terror?

14 August 2003

Law Society of WA | The Law and Politics of Human Rights in an Isolated Country Without a Bill of Rights:
The law and politics of human rights in an isolated country without a bill of rights will always be complex and piecemeal. We Australians may continue to get by without a bill of rights. Our politicians will continue to lampoon the judges for stepping into what the politicians regard as their sacred domain, namely public policy mandated at the ballot box. When such policy impacts on the basic rights and liberties of persons, even though they be members of despised minorities such as detained asylum seekers, the judges will continue to have a role to play: upholding the Constitution, strictly interpreting statutes consistent with fundamental rights and liberties and shaping the common law in harmony with contemporary international legal standards and social norms. Public advocates will also have their role in defending the courts and in criticising the politicians who trample the rights of unpopular minorities claiming a popular mandate and an overriding public interest such as national sovereignty or border protection. Being attentive to the judges and the public advocates as well as to the opinion polls and political spin doctors, we will be better placed to constitute a society in which all are assured their due under the rule of law.

Honouring Western Australia's gift to the nation, Ronald Wilson judge and public advocate, we recall his 1996 observation that for us 'Australians there is such a fear of difference, or alternatively, a commitment to self-interest, that the interests of the majority will always take precedence until such time as there is a widespread commitment, at all levels of the community, to the principle that human rights matter for everyone'. Courts and public advocates are indispensable whether or not we have a bill of rights.

Extract from the 2003 Sir Ronaldt Wilson Lecture by Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO.

The Age | Why it matters when the PM chooses not to tell us the truth :
The taboo on misleading is particularly important because it builds a sort of honesty check into the political system. It gives Parliament a few teeth against the executive.

As has been pointed out during the debate, Howard's unwillingness to give the full truth in this instance reinforces suspicions he knew more than he confessed on another matter, the children overboard saga.

It was obvious he'd been protected by Chinese walls, but his insistence to Parliament that he hadn't been told the children overboard story was wrong had to be given credence because he was known to be very careful about what he said in Parliament.

In the past couple of years one detects an increasingly cavalier attitude to the truth around the prime ministerial establishment.

More on this tomorrow when the Lateline transcript becomes available. It will also be interesting to find out when Labor lodged the FOI request which led to disclosure of the meeting Howard denied attending. I suspect the FOI request went in long before the Manildra donation was received. A brighter opposition might have refused it.

It is, of course, entirely possible that no-one in Howard's private office sent him the memo telling him he had attended the meeting. More on this here and here.

This is Not a Blog | Gamma Delays:
"Seriously, is this what the Pentagon does with their spare time? Are they confused as to the already massive difference between our military power and say the rest of the world's? Couldn't we better spend this money researching how to fight cancer, or how to make a better Hulk movie, or how to explain why anyone watches American Idol? I mean dammit, man, these are the mysteries of life - we already know how to kill large groups of people."

Go read the whole post and be very, very afraid.

Salon.com | The big wedding:
'I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center,' National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told reporters in May 2002, '...and that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.' While only Rice knows her intention in making this statement, the rest of us now know it to be utterly false.

Let's forget about Tom Clancy for now. Even without using a novelist's imagination, the United States had plenty of information that could have led to the conclusion that terrorists 'would try to use an airplane as a missile' -- precisely what Rice denied -- and it should have been preparing for the possibility. Government leaders had known of terrorists' intentions to use airplanes as missiles for at least seven years before Sept. 11. In 1994, French commandos stormed a hijacked aircraft while it sat on an airport tarmac awaiting refueling, preventing the Algerian hijackers onboard from flying the plane into the Eiffel Tower. Dubbed 'the Marseilles plot' because of the location of the commandos' successful action, the details of this terrorist operation were well known to international intelligence agencies. The 1995 'Bojinka plot,' in which terrorists planned to hijack 12 planes as they flew over the Pacific Ocean and crash them into high-profile American targets, was also known in the American intelligence community long before Sept. 11.

This June, citing a report in the Christian Science Monitor, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern wrote in the Miami Herald: 'In the weeks before Sept. 11, Jordanian intelligence had warned U.S. counterparts that bin Laden terrorists were planning a major attack using aircraft inside the continental United States. The Jordanians had intercepted a crucial al Qaeda message that dubbed the operation 'the big wedding.''

Even more damning for Bush administration's claims of ignorance about the chance that terrorists would use planes as weapons is the following exchange, which seems to expose the administration's pre-Sept. 11 knowledge about reputed '20th hijacker' Zacarias Moussaoui. The Monitor and the Washington Post both reported that upon learning of the attacks during breakfast that awful day, CIA director George Tenet told former Sen. David Boren, 'This has bin Laden all over it ... I wonder if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.'"

The author lost his wife in the attack on the Two Towers. His account is important in itself. It also documents just how bad the Bush administration's performance was on that day and how unconvincing their excuses for that performance have been.

13 August 2003

Guardian Unlimited Politics | A war fought under false pretences:
The country and the Commons were doubtful enough about the war even when they were told that Saddam's lethal capability was certain. If they had known that it was only the supposition of some intelligence officers, the opposition to military action would have been irresistible. And the doubts do more than undermine the dossier that changed the public mood. They make the decision to go to war itself indefensible. If young men and women are sent to die, the politicians who send them need to be sure that the sacrifice is justified. In Iraq, soldiers were sacrificed for a hypothesis which was rejected by some of the intelligence officers who were qualified to make a judgment.

Much of the evidence given on Monday confirms how imprecise a business intelligence gathering is. Conclusions are reached on the basis of probability. The dossier that justified war was the result of what amounted to a collegiate discussion, with some members supporting the eventual wording and some dissenting. It is impossible to justify war on a majority vote, a difference of opinion or a compromise over conflicting judgment about its necessity. Britain went to war under false pretences.

The inquiry will grind on. Alastair Campbell will, no doubt, be acquitted of personally and exclusively adding the 45-minute warning to the dossier, though there will be no doubt that Dr Kelly made that allegation and the BBC was justified in reporting it. That means that the BBC will almost certainly be vindicated. The prime minister will undoubtedly assert that he remains certain of the moral justification for the war. Civil servants may be censured and ministers may lose their jobs. We can look forward to weeks of lurid headlines. But nothing the inquiry reveals in future can be more important than the single fact that it demonstrated last Monday. The government exaggerated the threat from Iraq. If it had given the country an honest account of the danger the outcry against military action would have been too great for the government to resist or the prime minister to survive.

I think that's an accurate summation of what will happen in Britain. In Australia, of course, the government has no political difficulties, because �thelred Howard the Unready did not get the memo.

I just discovered that Google can work as a Calculator and Dictonary. The dictionary link is especially cool.

Calculator link from Brad De Long's Semi-Daily Journal.
Wanted - competent staff

The Prime Minister of Australia would like to hire an entirely new staff. The prime minister is concerned that he has not been receiving relevant information from his private office and other agencies. The current staff have bungled their jobs by not apprising the prime minister of:

This has lead to purely technical examples of the prime minister misleading the parliament. While there has been absolutely no impact on policy, such as winning an election, going to war or granting a discriminatory excise to any company's competitors there are dark forces in the nation who are using these pettifogging and infrequent oversights to the prime minister's political disadvantage.

Candidates should be ready to swear hollow that they never saw, said or heard anything and if they did they certainly did not tell the prime minister whatever it was they did not see, hear or say no matter what.

RADIO AUSTRALIA | Radical proposals on Pacific integration in Australian Senate report:

An Australian Senate report says Pacific Islanders should have a special right to work in Australia as part of a new Pacific Economic and Political Community.

Graeme Dobell reports that the inquiry says a Pacific Community could also have a common currency, using the Australian dollar.

The Senate Foreign Affairs committee says Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Nauru are worse now than when they became independent. The 300 page report says Australia would face serious consequences if regional economies collapse. It says Pacific Islanders should have special migration access to Australia to do seasonal work. The report says Islanders will be less likely to overstay if they have yearly access to Australia, and are selected and managed by their home country. The Senate inquiry says the 16 countries of the Pacific Islands Forum should create a Pacific Economic and Political Community with the Australian dollar as the common currency.

Still reading, more later.

Theological Terms from the Esoteric Dictionary of Quasi-Spiritual Mistaken Knowledge:
Synaptic Gospels
Fast paced cyber-version of the Gospels edited by Keanu Reeves and the cast of The Matrix. Features amazing special effects, including the Apostle Paul evangelizing faster than humanly possible.

The whole list is worth reading. The genealogy of this link is as follows: Signposts begat a link to Across, Beyond, Through who begat a link to Boy in the bands, who belinked Philocrites who begat this link.
Newsday.com | Today We Face Another 'Watergate':
It is the time of the anonymous informer and the chilling threat, reminiscent of Watergate, that dissent is unpatriotic and giving aid to the enemy. The logic of the government appears to be that the only way we can preserve our freedom and liberty from the efforts of terrorists to destroy them is to temporarily destroy them ourselves. But true security comes from our being a free society blessed with constitutional democracy and a Bill of Rights - rights that if lost cannot be easily recovered.

An alert Congress would check the administration's grab for greater power than the Constitution permits. It would hold hearings and inform the people of the dangers they faced. Unfortunately, Congress today is shirking its constitutional responsibilities. There are no Sam Ervins in the Senate now. Instead of offering leadership, our congressional representatives defer to the White House in an attempt to show they are as patriotic as the president.

The lesson of Watergate should teach them that a president free to assert excessive power could, even unintentionally, irreparably harm our democracy. Benjamin Franklin wisely wrote, 'They that would give up essential liberty to attain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.'

A couple of people have posted comments wondering why the popular reaction in Australia has been so muted in comparison to Britain or even the US. There are a couple of standard answers floating around:

  • the incompetence of the federal opposition
  • a heavily concentrated and uncritical media duopoly
  • the absence of heavy hitters like Robin Cook prepared to criticise the war

We should add to that list the war's minimal impact on Howard's famous 'ordinary Australians' and the lack of a rights tradition. US Attorney-general John Ashcroft may be Darryl Williams' hero but there is no sign of an intrusive anti-terrorist campaign. The Senate's opposition to the Williams terrorist laws did a great deal to ensure there can be no such campaign. There have been no Australian casualties in Iraq. idiocies like the US travel restrictions and library searches are not happening.

The historic emphasis in Australian democracy has been on the supremacy of parliament. When an enforceable bill of rights is mentioned both coalition and labor politicians race to stand on a table and scream. We are now the only Westminster democracy without a statutory or constitutional charter of rights. Human rights just is not a major issue and will not be until one of the major parties starts campaigning for it.

Before we beat ourselves up too much for the opposition's quietism and the citizenry's apathy we should recall that the Senate threw out the more dramatic legislation, in the face of a government allegation that rejecting its proposals would give aid and comfort to terrorists. The national style of disengagement may mean that political claims based on human rights go nowhere. It also means that speeches about the nation in danger do not cause our MPs to race lemming-like to the government's side. We should also not forget that the Australian people rejected conscription in time of war. Twice. Or that we rejected the Communist Party dissolution bill at the height of the Cold War hysteria.

Perhaps we know something about Benjamin Franklin after all.

12 August 2003

Guardian Unlimited | George Monbiot on climate change:
Of course, we cannot say that the remarkable temperatures in Europe this week are the result of global warming. What we can say is that they correspond to the predictions made by climate scientists. As the met office reported on Sunday, 'all our models have suggested that this type of event will happen more frequently.' In December it predicted that, as a result of climate change, 2003 would be the warmest year on record. Two weeks ago its research centre reported that the temperature rises on every continent matched the predicted effects of climate change caused by human activities, and showed that natural impacts, such as sunspots or volcanic activity, could not account for them. Last month the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) announced that 'the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest in any century during the past 1,000 years', while 'the trend since 1976 is roughly three times that for the whole period'. Climate change, the WMO suggests, provides an explanation not only for record temperatures in Europe and India but also for the frequency of tornadoes in the United States and the severity of the recent floods in Sri Lanka.

Once upon a time the rule for solving a whodunnit was: 'Cherchez la femme'. A friend of mine, more than half-seriously, proposed Colwell's Law of History: 'Cherchez l'argent'. If you apply that standard to climate change the absence of research findings against the global warming theory by independent sceintists becomes fairly disturbing.

Guardian Unlimited | Barrier reef bleaching worsens:
Coral bleaching caused by global warming could devastate swaths of Australia's Great Barrier Reef within 50 years, according to a report.

The study, commissioned by the Queensland government, found that bleaching could be an annual occurrence by 2050.

Coral bleaching happens when high water temperatures kill off the algae which live alongside coral polyps and give reefs their vibrant colours. At first the only serious damage is to the reef's appearance, but serious bleaching can destroy coral altogether.

Scientists classify the event as catastrophic if high temperatures occur for more than 100 days in a year. Such reefs do not regain their appearance for 10 years, and can take 50 years.

The main reason given for our failure to ratify Kyoto is the cost to the Australian economy. Even in terms of dollars and cents that is indefensible. if the Great Barrier Reef collapses that will have an effect on tourism. If the Murray-Darling basin falls victim to river failure or salination that will cripple our agrosector. The government should think again.

10 August 2003

The Independent | One man can take the heat off. Will he heed the global warning?:
The temperature in central London yesterday reached 35.4C (95.7F) - the hottest on record - with Gravesend in Kent even hotter, at 35.9C (96.6F). Even in Glasgow it was in the 80s Fahrenheit, and the UK record of 37.1C (98.8F) could be broken on Saturday, forecasters said, as all across Europe the merciless sun roasts citizens, sets forests ablaze and makes rivers run dry.

But this heatwave is nothing compared to what global warming has in store, United Nations scientists say - and the international agreement to counter it is now hanging by a thread. Its name is Putin.

If Russia's leader and his government do not soon ratify the Kyoto Protocol - the global warming treaty - the whole agonisingly constructed international mechanism for trying to deal with climate change will fall apart. To the mounting concern of officials in many countries, they show few signs of doing so.

The danger is passing unremarked by most people feeling the heat this summer, a summer whose unusual temperatures and extreme weather events across the world have already been highlighted, and explicitly linked to global warming, by the World Meteorological Organisation.

India, Sri Lanka and the United States have registered record high temperatures, rainfall and tornadoes; continental Europe has seen forest fires like never before and great rivers such as the Po in Italy reduced to a trickle; and now it is Britain's turn.

Yesterday a mass of air with the heat of a desert enveloped southern England, breaking records. And the highest temperature recorded nationally, Gravesend's 35.9C, may be exceeded when even warmer air arrives on Saturday, possibly breaking the UK temperature record of 37.1C (98.8F) set at Cheltenham in 1990.

Here are some contact details if you wish to email Putin's office:

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

Government of the Russian Federation

The Kremlin



Stay on topic and be respectful.

Trailers of mass destruction story runs out of gas:
But it had not previously been known that a majority of the Defense Intelligence Agency's engineering team had come to disagree with the central finding of the white paper: that the trailers were used for making biological weapons.

'The team has decided that in their minds, there could be another use, for inefficient hydrogen production, most likely for balloons,' a Defense Department official said.

The Defense Intelligence Agency's engineering teams had not concluded their work in Iraq at the time the white paper was drafted, and so their views were not taken into account at that time, the government officials said. They said the engineering teams had discussed their findings in meetings in Washington in June and again last month.

Isn't it strange how again and again we get these things said at the highest level, this one by Bush himself, and weeks or months later we are told by someone much less newsworthy that the story was so much hot air? Isn't it even stranger that the Bush administration released a technical analysis before the technical analysts had done their work? Or is this the deeper problem of rightwing governments not knowing or wanting to know the basic science underlying their claims?

Link from DailyKOS

New Zealand News | Sense of family values:
Last week he paid a visit to the Solomons with his Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer.

'It is fine to talk about the theory of it. This was the practice of it.

'This was the countries asserting the principles set out under Biketawa.

'Seeing it on the ground was 'very refreshing', Goff said, adding a veiled reference to the United States-led invasion of Iraq.

'There have been other occasions in the world where people have gone in and expected to be welcomed as liberators.

'This was a situation ... where it was a grand occasion as the people of Honiara welcomed enthusiastically the deployment of a multi-national force.'

Almost a snark of the week...
The Very Secret Diaries of the Fellowship of the Ring

It seems the tender sensibilities of The spin starts here, darl have been shattered by a search page reference where the terms were: 'Sam and Frodo Love Videos'. They should not read the Very Secret Diaries under any circumstances.